It’s the end of another financial year, and predictably, we’ll all be bombarded with advice about numerous drastic changes we need to make to stay ahead of the pack in 2014. Here, I’ll put my two cents in, but with a difference.
The following three tips for “crushing your competition” all require you to start by ignoring your competitors. By taking your focus off of your competitors, you’ll be ready to take simple (not necessarily easy) actions that will positively impact your business and ensure you achieve your most important goals.
Focus on making small improvements in your business. Don’t be tempted to launch major change initiatives in your businesses before exploring simpler options for improvement. Often, a series of smaller, but impactful, changes over time will make a significant difference. Instead of plotting a major overhaul of your entire operation, look for things that you can simplify, eliminate, automate or tweak to make your business more efficient, more effective or just more enjoyable to do business with.
Changes focused on delivering more value to your customers are best and
have the added bonus of setting you apart from the competition.
Quit competing on the basis of being “better than”. There are certain aspects of every industry that form the basis of comparison between businesses. To outsmart the competition, stop focusing on being “better than” and focus instead on being the best at something unique to you and what your business is uniquely positioned to deliver. Ask what you can do differently to get people talking and forget about your (now irrelevant) competitors. Then focus your time and energy there.
Obsess on exceptional customer service. Too many businesses disappoint when it comes to customer service. If you don’t want to be one of them, you should continually strive to improve the customer’s experience. Consider how well you listen to your customers and deliver the things they value the most. Then seek to dramatically improve your customer service to build long term relationships.
By focusing on these three tips over the next 6 months, I am confident that you will be celebrating a successful financial year end in June and will have begun laying the foundations for longer term business success.
Having goals is great, but many times we struggle to achieve anything meaningful as a result of goal setting. What is the secret to setting goals that actually get achieved? There are seven characteristics that I have identified that make it much more likely that your goals will become actions and achievements instead of the business equivalent of New Year's resolutions that fall by the wayside shortly after they've been resolved. Test your most important goals against this list...
#1 - Goals that get achieved are COMPELLING. Is your goal to "increase revenue"? Or achieve year on year growth in excess of 15%? There's one problem with these kinds of goals. They're BORING! And if you need anyone's help along the way, they're not very inspiring. What you need to do is find a goal that will get you and your team jumping out of bed every morning ready to tackle the goal head on. Without an element that is meaningful beyond the scope of what can be measured on a profit & loss statement, even you will have a difficult time motivating yourself to drive towards your goal when things get tough. Don't make your goals about maintaining business as usual. Make them about growth, change, improvement or creating something new & exciting. Mundane goals lead to minimal engagement.
#2 - Goals that get achieved are CONCISE. Get to the point. Say it in one sentence. Keep it simple, stupid. And keep the overall number of goals to a minimum as well. I recommend that you never have more than three goals at any given time. The finer your focus, the greater your chance of success.
#3 - Goals that get achieved are CLEARLY COMMUNICATED. The whole team needs to know what the goal is. Not only do they need to know what it is, they need to understand it. If they don't, how are they supposed to do anything to help achieve it? Research shows that, on average, only 15% of those surveyed know what the most important goals of their organisation are. No wonder nothing much is getting accomplished.
#4 - Goals that get achieved are CONNECTED to ACTIONS. If you're now in the lucky situation where your team knows what the goals of the business are, you have to make sure that every single one of them knows what they have to DO individually and collectively to get the desired outcome. The specific actions they'll take should be directly related to achieving the goal - don't let anyone get away with hiding behind the "I've got too much work to do" excuse. Make the connection for them between their daily actions and whether or not they are getting the team closer to the goal or not.
#5 - Goals that get achieved are COLLABORATIVELY DETERMINED. Goals that are dictated by management don't lend themselves to employee "buy-in". They may offer their grudging compliance when arbitrary goals are thrust upon them, but great things are only achieved in organisations that get their entire team to put in their discretionary efforts for a goal that is bigger than any of the individuals. Yes. Engagement really IS that important unless you can do it all yourself.
#6 - Goals that get achieved are COUNTED. By that, I mean that you're keeping score. On a literal scoreboard whenever possible. Because people play the game differently when you're keeping score. The scoreboard should be simple, visible and show everyone exactly where we sit against our goal at a single glance. Research shows that, on average, only 25% of employees have any idea how they're progressing towards the goals of the company. It's hard to achieve results if you don't know the score.
#7 - Goals that get achieved are tied to CLEAR ACCOUNTABILITIES. The bottom line - no accountability, no commitment. If you don't care enough to hold people accountable, they won't care enough to sustain their efforts. The end of year performance review is useless. You should give constant feedback based on the actions that your team members are accountable for. Research shows that only 1 in 4 employees meet with their managers even monthly to account for their progress towards goals. That's just not good enough if you're trying to achieve something meaningful.
I encourage you to review your goals (or set some new ones) with these characteristics in mind. And when you're finished, share what you've come up with - that will help to make it real and concrete as well as give you the opportunity to get some feedback.
One final suggestion once you've come up with a final version of your goals. We've all heard of SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goals. This framework is a useful way of guiding your goal setting. But I like to make sure that the clients I work with also avoid setting goals that are DUMB. By that I mean you should check to make sure that none of your goals fit into one of these categories. If so - back to the drawing board.
D = Dictated by management without consultation
U = Unknown by the majority of people that have to help you achieve them. Goals? What Goals?
M = Many - too much information for anyone to be able to focus and execute
B = Boring - not linked to anything meaningful, ambitious or motivating
Alan Blair has over 15 years experience in business performance consulting. He delights in making his clients more money, finding them more time to enjoy life & helping everyone reach their maximum potential.