Have you set your goals for 2018 yet?

If not, get on with it! Seriously, this is not something that can wait until January. It should be thought through and organised well in advance, shared with your senior team, indeed created and owned by your top team, presented to the company and then reported against each month for progression onwards.

I tend to go for five key objectives (things) I know I want to get done in the next twelve months, and I make sure those goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. It should always be measurable. Even refraining from interrupting people can be counted – I speak from experience!

It’s also worth mentioning here that just because you have five goals for your business, that doesn’t mean you take deliverable ownership of all five. You do “own” respnsibility, but as a company matures the team around you has to own their objectives. In fact it’s important to delegate at least part of the whole set of objectives (perhaps not all). Each titled objective is broken down into key steps, elements of how you are going to make progress.

Individuals shouldn’t have their objectives dictated to them; they should work with you to decide what are the most important parts of progress and what is affordable and achievable within the twelve month timeframe. Then target each individual leader to trickle down their expectations for others. Target them on their outcomes and make sure you have a reporting structure in place so that you all know how you are progressing towards your goals as the year goes on.

Always involve your staff in setting goals. That might seem like a massive nightmare, but if you call a team meeting and suddenly announce these goals you’ve decided you need to hit for the year, you might well not get the reaction you were hoping for. In fact, what you’ve actually done there is dictate your ideas to your team and that never brings the best rewards. Instead, sit down with your key players and put your heads together to come up with a set of realistic goals for the year. Your business needs to be based around “we” rather than “I” in order to succeed.

Be open about the financial implications of any goals you set; if you are in a position where you need to increase your profits in order for the business to survive the next year, let your staff know that. You’ll be surprised how much harder people will work when they want to help you keep the business going, and when they feel like they are a valued part of that business rather than just an employee. Get your staff invested in the company and the goals you set, and you’ll find everyone goes much further, much faster than if you set your company goals as an individual and try to get people on board with them after the fact.

If your staff are uncomfortable with this process, it is your job as the leader to educate them as to why there needs to be a target. If they’re uncomfortable with the level of the target, again it’s your job to explain why it is at that level or to work through to an achievable target. Don’t always elect to lower your expectations; a collaborative process with good people wll always result in realistically plannable and backable outcomes around which you can invest resource. If you believe the target is reasonable, be prepared to justify this to your team. Of course, you should also listen to their concerns and it may well be that they can come up with a valid point which you had not considered – but on the whole, targets should be set to slightly stretch. If your goal is not big and scary, is it worth hitting? Also, if you set a goal really high and aim for that but fall short, you will still have done pretty well. If you set it lower, and still fall short, you won’t have done very well and it won’t feel great

Once targets are set, they should be displayed for all staff members to see, and for everyone to track progress. An important point here: if you are in the retail business, targets are not for customers to see! Stick them on the wall in the staff room, not anywhere on the shop floor as this gives a really bad impression to your customers, if they spot things like this on the desk next to the till. Targets are not something any customer should know about, in any business, as it devalues their experience with your company. You risk your customer feeling like just another transaction on the way to hitting a target rather than a valued customer with whom you really want to do business.

Once your goals are set and agreed, it is important to be rigid in your monthly review dates. Don’t let anything distract you. In fact, now is the perfect time to pull out your diary and book in a date each month for reviewing progress. When I was at Pacific Direct I travelled all over the world, all the time – but everyone knew exactly where I would be on the second Tuesday of every month: in the office, going over the numbers with a fine toothed comb. When you’re on top of your numbers like this you begin to see trends and seasonality, and this helps to inform decisions going forward. Make sure every member of your team knows which day each month is your day for reviewing finances and goal progress, and they can work towards that day to make sure they’re hitting targets. This helps to keep all of you motivated and on track for success.

And now, the most fun part of goal setting: the reward. What do you get if you hit your target? At Pacific Direct, whenever we hit our target (in the early days) everyone shared 10% of the profit on the excess – which kept people motivated not only to hit targets but to go well above and beyond. If you’re a smaller company, can you offer other things? Could you partner with another small business to offer their products as rewards? An important point to remember here is that you must lead by example: don’t pay lip service to it if you are not prepared to set your own goal and reward. This shows your staff that you are in it with them, and that you reward yourself too. When I first started Pacific Direct my reward for hitting my target was to get a leg wax! These days I go for something a little bigger, but as long as it’s something you actually want, you won’t go far wrong. Don’t also make the mistake of assuming individuals want the same things; everyone has different motivations. Ask your people what different level of rewards motivate them, including simple things like their favourite chocolate bar.

Setting goals and targets for the year ahead is critically important and something that will help to push your business forward over the next twelve months – but it’s important to do it properly, and to make sure that your staff are on board.

Written by Vicky Charles

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