James, a client of mine, has tried for years to set goals and carry them out. He hasn’t done very well despite having the best of intentions.

“Setting goals is something I should be doing,” he told me recently, “but I’m not good at following through.”

Like you and me, James is a busy guy. His company, which distributes automotive products, has more than 50 employees and hundreds of customers. He’s very good at selling but he’s not very good at managing. And to be good at goal setting, you have to be good at managing – not just others, but yourself, too. So what can James do?

To set goals, James first has to reset himself. He needs to stop spending all his time doing deals and accomplishing tasks, and become a macro-thinker instead of a micro-manager. Successful business owners know they can’t do everything on their own. In order to really make money, they need other people to make it for them. Good senior executives make the big bucks because they know how to get people to work towards their individual goals and the goals of the company. Developing this ability will set James apart from other, less successful business owners.

“I’m not sure I can do all that,” James said to me, “but I’m willing to try.”

So here’s what I recommended to James: Pick your key managers (he has three) and ask them to set three goals for themselves. Do the same for yourself and for the company. Make sure each goal follows these three rules:

Rule 1:  Each Goal Must Be Within the Goal Setter’s Control

Don’t just say “increase sales 25 percent” or “get 17 new clients.” Too many outside factors can affect the achievement of goals like this. Instead, base your goals on real facts (addressing a backlog or meeting a forecast, for example) and make each one accomplish-able mostly by hard work – like finishing a project or completing certain tasks that move the company forward.

Rule 2:  Each Goal Must Be Quantifiable

The goal should be clear enough so that there’s no argument about whether it’s been reached or not. A final, signed-off contract, a working prototype, an asset that can be touched, a number that’s clearly stated on a report – these are examples of quantifiable goals. They are either accomplished or they’re not. In most universities, an “A” is achieved with a test score above 93. You either get it or you don’t. Your goals should follow the same rule.

Rule 3:  Everyone’s Goals Are Reviewed on a Specific Day (Such as the First Friday After the End of the Quarter)

No exceptions. No excuses. It must be clear that to keep James’ company on track, reaching established goals is the number one priority – above putting out fires or attending to customers or problems that just have to be solved. To back up that commitment, James has to commit to a time to review current goals and set new ones, and do this without exception.

There are people who do and people who manage those who do. The ones who manage are the ones who take the time to set and monitor goals for everyone they manage. That’s why they make the big bucks. Is James ready to be this type of manager? Are you?

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