When I think about goals setting activities that I need to plan and help implement as a CEO, somehow my thoughts go back to all those movies about athletes and sports. My mind also wanders to some amazing quotes about setting and achieving goals. Here’s a quote that stands out and is especially relevant to this post:
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score” – Bill Copeland, late Cricket umpire
My son has been working out, and for him to know if he is gaining muscle mass overtime, he needs to constantly weigh and measure himself. This way he understands if all the work he is putting in is paying off. But in the business world, working out and measuring oneself is a lot more complex. There are several metrics to pay attention to. By looking into goal setting activities, however, we can understand where we are going and where to direct our efforts. The textbook rule to setting goals is to keep them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (or keep them to a set timeframe). As a CEO, I have learned five lessons from the gym that translate well into the boardroom when it comes to setting goals.
- Question yourself
When I say question yourself, I’m not asking that you second guess your goals and decisions. In most of my previous posts, I write about starting any undertaking by trying to “know thyself.” Once you become a student of yourself, ask yourself some very specific questions about the goals that you want to achieve. For instance, I asked myself how to get on organizational boards, how to get to my first CEO job, and how to create an effective system that makes gathering people insights in a business more efficient.
Just as a bodybuilder has an idea of the number of inches he/she needs to gain, or the weight he/she needs to reach, create a specific goal for yourself and ask relevant questions about this goal. If your goal as a CEO is to make your company twice as profitable as it currently is, you may want to ask questions such as, “By when do I want to reach this goal?” “What strengths of my teams am I going to optimize?” “What weaknesses should I be looking to minimize?” and “How do I set expectations with my board and my c-suite colleagues about this goal?
- Set your clock
Most people have two types of clocks that they respond to:one is an internal clock and one is an external clock. The internal clock is more intuitive, and the people who have a strong internal clock have an inner compass that keeps pointing them towards what they need to do to achieve their goals. The more people I meet, the more I realize that people in corporate boards, C-Suite executives, and extremely successful entrepreneurs have strong internal clocks. For these professionals, their career workout is a breeze, something they enjoy doing, and something that comes very naturally.This is not to say that an external clock is any less effective. Professionals who have strong external clocks need to write down their goals, break them up into achievable targets, and keep track of all the tasks that can get them there. They need to constantly check their career maps to see where their compasses are pointing. They need to write out and read their plans of action every day. I realize that that sometimes this can seem like a workout that is not particularly enjoyable. Thus professionals need to constantly schedule time for their career workouts.
- Train holistically
When you start working out, in most cases you will have to take care of your body in its entirety. You need to work on increasing your stamina, building lean muscles, and toning yourself before moving on to either building muscles or spot training.As CEOs, the onus is on us to look at our organizations in their entirety. We need to learn about every nook and cranny of our organizations and gather people insights. We then need to mobilize our teams to achieve our shared goals and vision. Every team and every member of our organizations need to understand how they contribute to set goals. Think about holistic training as a way to train your entire organization towards something. This sets a good rhythm and consistency that is necessary for achieving goals. In a recent article, Meg Whitman, CEO of HP, talks about how all the managers at HP follow the same strategy book, Playing to Win:How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley, in order to mobilize a workforce that is 300,000 strong in the same direction! This books acts as a workout regime for the organization. Choose a workout regime for your business.
- Focus on specific muscle groups
Once we get our entire organizations “working out,” it is time to address specific muscle groups. This is what spot training is all about, where people focus on building their cores muscles, building their biceps, reducing inches around their stomach region, and so on.In the business world, spot training can mean getting your sales or product team in top shape. Minimizing weaknesses within a specific team, making your operations leaner, or expanding your marketing initiatives are other ways to address specific muscle groups. Keep your goal in mind, and choose your muscle groups wisely.
- Take stock
Just as you measure inches and weight every few weeks when you are working out, you need to consistently measure your business performance. Since you already have your organizational goals set, ask each one of your teams to identify suitable metrics that they can use to measure their performance. Look at how teams are able to meet these metrics, and train them to get better at meeting their goals. Do not simply measure yourself against metrics once or twice a year. Your teams and the business as a whole need to measure their performance against set goals every week or every other week if possible.
If you are a successful CEO, you probably work at a pace that puts Flash Gordon to shame. It is all too easy to get caught up in the details of everyday tasks. We all need to take a step back and look at the big picture of our overall goals. Once we do this, we can work out with increased vigor and make our businesses more fit. Here’s wishing you all a productive workout both in the gym and in the boardroom. Go it get!
Edwin has authored 9Lenses Insight to Action:A Social Approach to Business Optimization and Snapshot9 What’s Your Picture?:Accelerate Your Business Performance. Click here to download the first chapter of 9Lenses Insight to Action for free!