Years ago, I got my private pilot’s license. Nothing can beat the experience of viewing the horizon while feeling the exhilaration of making constant decisions and then adjustments based on wind, weather, and air traffic–all while keeping an eye on the altimeter, gyro compass, attitude indicator, and a whole panel of other instruments. But at the end of every flight, you have to put the wheels on the runway. It’s the most dangerous part of flying and when most accidents occur. Every pilot must perfect the skill to land the plane if he or she wants to reach the destination.
Landing a plane is a little like setting goals. You need vision, mission, and strategy for both. You also need practice. When learning to fly, the student pilot devotes time to touch and gos–circling round and round in the landing pattern of an airport–to practice landing and taking off. In these volatile, stress-inducing times, it can become easy to get distracted from your priorities. To help, here are a few suggestions to help you practice goal setting in your business, even now.
First, Get SMART
The better you get at goal setting, the more likely you are to transition from verbal goals, to written goals, to SMART goals, which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bounded. By way of illustration, in the chart below, each vague statement has been rewritten into a SMART goal.
You might take issue with a particular goal, but that merely demonstrates why goals should be explicitly stated–especially in larger firms with multiple advisors and staff working together to achieve them.
Now, Get Beyond Smart
We can all continually improve our goal-setting skills. Here are a few tips, garnered from SMART Goals, Massive Results (a series of CDs) by Raymond Aaron, to help the experienced goal setter get even better.
o To test whether your goals are measurable, have someone else measure them. It’s useful to beta-test a measurement system. Whether it’s by means of a spreadsheet, data taken from contact management software, or simply tally marks noting each time a task has been completed, measurement tests how well goals are written. (Documenting and reporting progress on a goal to a team can also serve as a motivational tool.)
o Be sure goals are measurable at the deadline. What does this mean? Here’s an example: A production goal–aiming to generate $300,000 of revenue by December 31, 2009–is an easy one to understand. But let’s say that you are paid by a broker/dealer. You may not know if all of your business has cleared through your B/D until you get your first check, which you will receive on January 15, 2010. This check will cover the last business you wrote in 2009; therefore, instead of using December 31, 2009, as your end-date, write the goal so that the deadline for achieving it is January 15, 2010, when the goal can actually be measured. In that case, it would read, “Generate $300,000 in revenue measured on January 15, 2010.” This approach will help you visualize that final moment when you know you will have achieved your goal.
o Remember that a goal measures only one thing at a time. The words “and/or” in a goal statement are red flags because they add ambiguity (the last thing you want when defining a goal!).
For example, if a goal is to bring in 20 new clients and $20 million in investable assets this year, will it mean that you have failed if you bring in 20 clients with only $19 million in investable assets? A cleaner approach would be to create two goals:
To bring on 20 new clients this year