In my business career I’ve dealt with five business recessions (1987, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2007-9) and a similar number of booms but what i’ve learnt is business is they were never predictable.
Next year… Up? Down? Growing? Stagnating? … who knows, so how can you generate predictable success?
How then, as a business leader can you set attainable, realistic goals in an up/down, who-knows-what’s-next market–without demoralising your team by setting them up for failure through unreachable targets?
In my experience, so long as the task is addressed the right way, the economic cycle rarely makes any real difference in setting realistic goals- other than SARs hitting Singapore and the collapse of 2007-8. The core principles remain the same for creating great performance remains the same:
1. Hire people who have a track record in achieving their goals. It may be obvious, but people with a track record of achieving their goals is fundamental. Like so many keys to achieving predictable success,in your business, setting and achieving goals consistently starts with world-class hiring.
Its surprisingly rare for the issue of hiring good people to be discussed in relation to goal-setting – despite the fact that you’ll only begin to consistently achieve your goals if and when you hire people who have a demonstrated track record of doing just that.
Take a look at your hiring practices and assess if you are deliberately hiring for consistent achievement? Do you ask candidates to bring evidence of achievement (and not just for sales positions)?
2. Set goals early, then revise the goals regularly in light of hard data on actual performance. Setting goals as a fixed number then putting pressure on the team over time in an attempt to somehow force your people to deliver those goals is a road to nowhere. The stubborn refusal to revise what could be irresponsible goals or worse, a belief that revising goals is weakness, is simply stupid.
Your goals should be reviewed at least quarterly and revised (up or down) in light of whatever new facts you have. If you resist doing this because you fear your people will pad their targets knowing they can revise their targets later on, then go back to point one above – your problem is with the type of people you’ve hired, not with the idea of revision based on factual data.
3. Use data for 70 percent of the goal-setting process, your intuition and judgment 30 percent. IN setting your goals, you’ll find you’ll need more than you think. Gauge what your industry trends are, ask peers for their experiences in other industries. Ask your managers and your team members for their input. Goal-setting done in a vacuum–with just you, a spreadsheet and a bottom-line to hit–isn’t going to cut it in this economy.
Remember, your team members need your input and assistance more than you think. That’s what you’re there for – to use your expertise and experience to bring some sense to all that data and reach attainable conclusions. So learn to trust your judgment, and be comfortable knowing that data can only provide you with a platform on which to apply that judgment that you are paid for.
4. Build goals from the bottom up, not the top down. Your people on the front line know more than anyone else in the organisation about what is achievable and what isn’t. If they don’t, or if you think you can’t trust them, or that they’ll negotiate with you, go back (again) to point one- hire the right people.
5. Reward success, penalise failure. Too many compensation schemes favour the success and under-play failure. If you truly want to get good as an organisation at setting and achieving goals, there must be consequences for sloppy forecasting–being over-optimistic just to please the boss, or padding your budget so you can easily look good- are a terrible drain on an organisation’s emotional stress so put penalties in place as well as rewards.
These are five ideas that I’ve used in the past to encourage team members to inspire and deliver consistent success. And with the right people, right attitudes and right processes, then even in unpredictable times you can have predictable success.