My front lawn is situated along a busy road which means it is well plowed in the winter. It also means that the we have lots of sand and road salt deposited along the grass adjacent to our front driveway during the cold, snowy months. For years every spring my husband would attempt to re-grow grass. And for years we would generously feed the flock of birds who enjoyed our freshly placed bird seed, and only sparsely fill in the gaps left behind by the winter storms.
This year my husband was determined to grow “bare footable grass”. And you know what, he did! And we did it because we set a different goal than in years past. Instead of just saying we’re going to replace the winter worn grass, we decided to grow luxurious, sink your toes and enjoy fields of green grass in our front yard! When we set the right goal, we took the right steps to achieve it.
You might be asking what was so wrong with our first goal – replace the grass destroyed by road waste? In a nutshell, almost everything!
#1 We didn’t set a measure – When growing grass was the goal we threw down grass seed and half-heartedly watered the lawn once a day. But when we wanted to feel the pleasures of summer through our toes my husband dug up the entire area, mixed new soil into the stale dirt and took great care to make sure no one walked onto the newly seeded area. The exact same philosophy applies to business goals. Setting objectives such as we want to grow 25% this year seems like a good goal, right? But it isn’t measurable enough. Do you want to be profitable? How much market share do you want to gain? Is there a new segment of the market you are targeting? It’s not good enough to say you want to grow – you have to define the measures by which success will be gauged.
#2 There were no milestones to track against – For years we set a goal – grow grass. But when we were determined to have amazing grass by June we set specific milestones to track against. We set a date on the calendar to turn the soil, we measured the amount of new growth every couple of days, we watched the weather forecast to adjust watering schedules, we even put a date on the calendar when we hoped to celebrate with bare feet. If you only think of the end result, you’ll never have the context you need to reach a complex, long-term goal whether you are growing new grass, trying to run a marathon or bringing a new product to market.
#3 Inspiration was missing – Growing grass is blah, but harkening back to boyhood summer memories of running around barefoot at my in-laws house was inspiring to my husband. When goals are difficult to achieve, you need vision to drive the hard work required to meet them. What happens when your business grows 25%? Do you get to re-invest into a new market segment? Does everyone get an extra week of vacation? Is there the pride of hitting #1 in the market? You must not only set a goal, but you must set a goal that inspires over the long haul.
#4 We lacked accountability – In years past we didn’t grow grass, who cared? Pretty much no one. But this year my husband threw down the gauntlet announcing to neighbors and family we would be boasting a new lawn before June. With this my husband made himself accountable for the work, and drew in his family to support him. The boys knew not to run over “dads grass”. And someone was willing to step up and water the lawn if dad couldn’t be home in time. My husband made himself and his “team” accountable by setting goals publicly for all to see, track and support. We must do the same for our businesses by driving transparency across the organization.
When we make these four common mistakes we set the wrong goals for our personal growth, financial objectives or business drivers. But here’s the good news, it’s easy to avoid these errors. Simply remember for your next planning session to give yourself the goal test. Are they inspiring, measurable, accountable and context driven? If not, go back to the drawing board.