As the New Year loses its “newness,” our goals and visions that were set at the end of last year seem to fade from the forefront of our action plans. The busyness of life begins to overtake our commitment to excellence. As many as 36% of Americans have abandoned their resolutions by the end of the first month of the year.
As leaders, we intuitively follow some variation of Deming’s “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle for managing processes. This iterative cycle ensures that we achieve what we set out to do and also allows for modifying our plan for greater excellence in the next cycle. We also set goals for our organization at the beginning of a business year and check whether we achieved our goals at the end of the year. Successful leaders have learned that having a great plan alone is not enough to ensure excellence in our organization. A great organization needs to stay on track by regularly measuring progress against stated goals and making course corrections throughout the year when necessary.
While we often do a great job on setting and achieving organizational and process or task goals, one area that leaders often overlook is their own personal development goals. At the beginning of the year, fresh planners are purchased, personal goals are set, but then life happens and almost half of Americans have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions by the middle of the year. While this data is reflective of a general population and not specifically leaders, it is a good reminder to check on the progress of your personal goals and make a course correction if necessary.
Recheck, Smart Guy…
It’s March and it is time to take out your New Year’s Resolutions (or even dust them off) and take a look at them. It is time to see where you are in progressing on your goals. If you haven’t set your personal goals yet, it is never too late. Just as any other goals that you set, your goals should be S-M-A-R-T, meaning:
Specific – You should have a particular goal in mind. If your goal is not specific, you will not be able to come up with the action steps to get you there.
Measurable – Goals should always be able to be measured. There is a huge difference between “I want to complete Six Sigma Green Belt Training this year” and “I would like to learn some ways to have my department be more efficient.” In the first instance, you will know when you have arrived. In the second example, it is hard to say whether or when you have achieved your goal.
Achievable – Stretch goals are great, but if they can not reasonably be achieved, they become demotivational.
Relevant – Make sure that you are aiming at the right target. If your goal is to gain operational efficiency but you work in research, you are heading for disappointment if you reach your goal and disillusionment if you do not.
Time Bound – Every good goal should have a time frame associated with it. “I will network with three new people every week” is more effective than “I should really expand my business network this year.”
Notice that each of these examples was action oriented. The best goals for your organization involve action. It is no different when you set personal goals.
Are you ready to take action to improve your skill set? Have you forgotten yourself when setting your annual goals this year? Do you have a goal in the back of your mind that you know you should tackle? Today is a great day to set and begin to achieve your goals.
Steve Nolan is a business leader at a Financial Services firm in Windsor, CT. You can follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/spnolan or connect with him on LinkedIn. He enjoys helping other leaders to be better than they are today and still struggles with keeping his focus on the journey but he is getting better all the time. He loves to network and welcomes your ideas on how to become a better leader.
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