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The system to achieve your goals in 2017

Have you ever stepped back from your business for a few hours to think about what you want this company to give you? Maybe it's the dream you started with, the one that gave you the momentum and courage to quit a job and venture out on your own. Maybe it's the time and support you want to dedicate to your family and community.

You may know where you want your business to go, but, chances are, you have no idea what exact daily and weekly steps to take—the critical yet elusive areas of focus—to make that dream a reality.

Over six years of growing and eventually selling my own business, and over the last three years of managing EMyth's software engineering and technology projects, I've developed a system that makes it simple to turn your vision into clear goals, and turn those goals into daily and weekly focuses and tasks.

That’s because I’ve found that successful owners, the ones who make their dreams come true, are masters of taking disciplined daily steps to make their vision a reality.

Fortunately, this isn't as difficult as you might think, and in the following pages I'll show you how. I'll also show you how to involve your entire staff, so that you don't have to do all the work. Let's get started.

Review Annual Goals

First you need to turn your vision into a clear set of 'business development goals.' To help you, I suggest working through our annual planning process. By the time you're done, you'll have clear priorities for what needs to happen next year.

Take a read over your goals—they won't work if they're not S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Are yours?

Here are three examples of 'S.M.A.R.T.' goals that we've shared across the company:

  • Reach a 24% qualified lead to sale conversion within our Coach Network by the end of Q4 2016.
  • Update and train employees on our Brand Story by the end of Q4 2016.
  • Implement and release the next generation of our Sales Management System and internal Lead Distribution Process by the end of Q3 2016.

Once you have S.M.A.R.T. goals for the year ahead, it's time to implement your system. There are three major components of this:

  • Quarterly Planning Document
  • Quarterly Roadmap
  • Weekly Review & Planning

Next, I'll show you how to use each of these tools and give some examples below.

First, Ensure Every Employee Knows Your Annual Goals

If your team doesn't know your exact goals, they will never get on board to help you achieve them. I've known a few owners who keep their goals a secret. This works against teamwork and creativity and it shows in their business culture, giving rise to silos, confusion, and competing priorities. If you don’t share your goals, employees end up relying on you to make all the decisions and can't even ask each other for help or ideas—sapping your time, efficiency, and focus.

Instead, share your goals in full with your employees. Give them the background they need to understand why you believe these goals are achievable and how they’ll help the company realize your vision. Then, listen.

Ask for their feedback—how your employees respond will affirm whether you should continue implementing this system, or slow down and keep working on your goals. Listen for phrases like, "This is exciting." "I want to work on that project!"

If your team is silent or you hear statements like, "Are you sure that's possible? That seems like more than we can do," pay attention. These responses you might interpret as 'negative' are great feedback. Ask questions, gain understanding, and make adjustments. By the time you have goals that make sense to you AND your team, you'll have created a sense of mutual ownership that will give you support you've likely never had before from your team.

Build a Quarterly Goal Planning Document

Your big annual goals might look like, "Increase qualified leads by 20% over last year." Or, "Implement clear budgeting process and delegate budget decision making to managers so that I can free my focus to only sign off on the large decisions."

But what concrete steps in the next three months will it actually take to get each goal done? The answer is in splitting the goal into a set of projects: specific areas of work, each with a single responsible individual and a deadline, which must be completed to achieve the goal.

Most company-wide goals will call on every department or manager to accomplish departmental projects that contribute to its success. You'll want each of your department heads to complete their own individual document, relative to their areas of responsibility. (Keep in mind that improving specific Key Strategic Indicators or departmental metrics may be a necessary result of a project that helps achieve your annual goals.)

The Quarterly Goals document you're creating will have three parts:

  • A look back at last quarter. What are we doing differently this quarter based on what we learned last quarter?
  • A clear understanding of this quarter's goals, and agreement that they're achievable. How do they line up with your annual goals?
  • A set of projects that will get the goal done. These projects will be a collaboration between you and your managers.
Download the Template

Click image to download the template with an example for a single document.

Prepare a Quarterly Goal Planning Document for Each Manager / Department Head

First, update the document to include your annual goals. You'll find that, depending on the team/department whose goals are being set, there will be vastly different focuses to cover.

Second, save a version of this document for each manager or department head. For each department, add your ideas about the projects that you think will help achieve each annual goal. These are usually specific areas of work where a clear result can be defined—but may also be metrics that need to increase/decrease. Your department head will likely have better ideas than you do about how to achieve the goals you've arrived at, so it's not your job to 'finish' this work. Just start a conversation.

Example of Goal-Setting for the Product Development Department at EMyth in 2016:

Two company-wide goals that governed the projects I focused on:

  • Reach a 24% qualified lead to sale conversion within our Coach Network by the end of Q4 2016.
  • Implement and release the next generation of our Sales Management System and internal Lead Distribution Process by the end of Q3 2016.

For my team, which is technology-focused and therefore has a supporting role in Sales and Marketing, our contribution to Reach a 24% qualified lead to sale conversion within our Coach Network by the end of Q4 2016 developed into the following projects:

  • Release Sales Standards to the EMyth Coach Dashboard by October 2016.
  • Update CRM to simplify lead follow-up so coaches can focus more on outreach to aging leads by May 2016.
  • Replace Recurring Billing System by July 2016 so client payment and onboarding is faster.

Download the Email Template

Third, share the document with your managers or department heads and ask them to complete it. Here's the email template I use to share the document with my team members. Do this at least two weeks before the beginning of your quarter so they can complete it and review it with you by the beginning of the new quarter.

Download Example Email

Fourth, don't forget to specify a date when they need to send you the completed document. I aim for this to happen at a minimum of one week prior to the start of the next quarter so we have time to review and finalize the sub-goals and projects.

Fifth, schedule review meetings with each manager who is completing a Quarterly Goals document, using the process I'll teach you.

Review Quarterly Goals Documents with Managers

Review the goals documents as you receive them and make notes for your individual review with your department heads or managers. When I review these documents, I'm asking myself how my managers/employees are thinking about the projects they committed to last quarter, and whether they feel they'll be successful this quarter. If this isn't clear to you, ask them. My managers/employees usually share great ideas and methods that are better, faster or more effective ways to achieve the goal than I would have come up with on my own.

Specific questions to ask in the review meeting:

  • What was the hardest question to answer? Why?
  • What did you learn as you worked on your quarterly goals?
  • Which projects are you the most excited about? Least excited about?
  • Do you feel the sub-goals and projects we're setting for this quarter are the best way to achieve our goals? Why? If not, why?
  • If I was gone for a month and you had to determine how to achieve this goal, how would you do it?

Next, you'll finalize and commit to the projects for this quarter. Ask yourself if you can commit based on these questions:

  • Do you feel that the goals set by your department head, and the projects designed to achieve your company-wide goals are the right path to take?
  • Is your department head/manager committed to achieving them? If not, why?

You must feel confident your manager can get the projects done that they've committed to. If you are, keep moving forward. If not, work on the Quarterly Goals document together until you reach agreement. (Hint: if you aren't in agreement, you may need to cut the projects until you are both deeply focused on what's most important.) If you are at a stalemate, bring in your mentor or an EMyth Coach to work through it.

Once you've reached agreement with your managers, and you've approved the projects, you'll share them with the rest of the company. Here's how:

Build a Quarterly Roadmap

Now, you're going to 'roll up' and share the entire set of quarterly goals and projects across all departments with all of your employees. We call this a Quarterly Roadmap. It's quite simple and powerful.

First, start the document by listing every annual goal you've set.

Second, add each departmental project underneath the annual goal that it contributes to. Only add it if you're convinced it's the most important thing that can be done to achieve the goal. If not, go back to the Quarterly Goals Document and keep working on it with your department head. Take a look at this example:

Quarterly Roadmap Template

First Annual Company-Wide Goal, e.g., "Increase sales by 20% over last year."

  • Supporting project / goal from Marketing Team
  • Supporting project / goal from Sales Team
  • Supporting project / goal from Finance Team
  • etc.

Second Annual Company-Wide Goal

  • Supporting project / goal from Marketing Team
  • Supporting project / goal from Sales Team
  • Supporting project / goal from Finance Team
  • etc.

Note that for larger teams, there will likely be two to five projects per department. That's fine.

Third, share it with your team. At a minimum, this should be updated and shared on a monthly basis. At EMyth, we update the Quarterly Roadmap every Monday. It's got the latest status of each project, the expected completion date, and any delays or difficulties noted on it—and once updated, it's emailed to all employees.

Conduct Weekly Planning Meetings

Based on the projects you've defined, delegate weekly planning and retrospective meetings to your managers/employees. These are simple meetings that your managers should lead with their reports. If you have a small enough team (less than eight employees), hold them as a company.

Format for Weekly Planning Meeting

Hold the meeting on Monday morning. Each employee answers three questions centered around their goals and projects:

  • What were your notable achievements last week?
  • Was there anything that didn't go smoothly last week?
  • What are you going to get done this week?
  • Optional: Is there anything we should exclude this week?

These meetings will generate conversations that help each employee refine their work. Your managers will know as soon as a project or goal is off-track and make corrections. Most importantly, your team will be able to make decisions to exclude areas of work that don't line up with your annual and quarterly goals.

Review Goals Daily

Finally, as a manager and a leader, what do you do on a daily basis to move toward your goals? I've written about spending a minimum of thirty minutes every day doing strategic work, so I'll offer a brief list of daily rituals:

  • Review your quarterly goals. Ask questions if something seems off track.
  • Review your Project Roadmap. I keep mine in a list that sits above my daily tasks so I'm always focused on the larger 'arc' of the quarter before I think about what needs to get done in a day.
  • Set one 'Most Important Task' that only you can accomplish that day that will move the company toward achieving your goals. Then get to work on it.

Results Beyond Your Goals

If you put this system in place, a surprising transformation will happen in your company that goes beyond mere efficiency and effectiveness. Your employees will start taking proud ownership of their own goals and responsibilities. You’ll find them talking to you about what they're doing to achieve your goals. Because you’ve gotten the buy-in of your people, these goals aren't just yours anymore–you've made them everyone's, adding a new level of meaning, purpose, and productivity to the way your whole team works.

Jed Bickford

Written by Jed Bickford

Jed is our Director of Product Development and an EMyth Certified Coach. He's a former business owner and he makes project management look easy, and somehow fun.