Well here it is, the first day of the second decade of the third millennium – 1 January 2010. If you’re anything like me, you will have given at least a passing thought to the annual ritual of making new year’s resolutions. Turning over a new leaf in some selected aspect of your life or business. So it was a little discouraging for me to read in Monday’s on-line “Guardian” an article about a recent study from the University of Hertfordshire, UK.
The study by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at Hertfordshire, concluded that making resolutions is a near pointless exercise. Resolutions made by the 700 people involved in the research were mostly broken – resulting in some level of despondency.
No, I’m not trying to take any of the shine and optimism away from the new year at all!
But I do wonder why the failure rate for resolutions seems to be so dismal – and I also wonder how any lessons can be applied to business goals?
The University of Hertfordshire study found that people who kept their resolutions tended to:
have broken their goal into smaller steps;
have rewarded themselves when they achieved one of these;
have told their friends about their goals;
focus on the benefits of success; and
kept a diary of their progress.
People who planned a series of smaller goals had an average success rate of 35%, while those who followed all five of the above strategies had a 50% chance of success, the study found. “Many of the most successful techniques involve making a plan and helping yourself stick to it,” Wiseman said.
And how does this apply to my business?
Well a business is just a collection of individuals, so what works for stacking the odds in favour of success for personal goal setting must also be helpful in a business context. Here are Richard Wiseman’s five strategies from above amended to suit a business perspective:
1. Break your business goals for 2010 into manageable steps. The kind of goals that are worth striving for are rarely easy to achieve – and anything that is difficult and takes a long time can bec ome daunting. So breaking long term goals that are a real stretch into smaller achievable steps significantly increases the chances of staying on track and actually making it to the desired end point.
2. Reward yourself and your team when you have achieved each milestone. Congratulate yourself and your team for your small achievements. Nothing worth achieving is easy, and there will surely be setbacks – so take the opportunity to stay positive by celebrating the successes! You are making changes that will culminate in an improved business.
3. Go public with your business goals. I would also add the importance of putting your goals to paper. You may have heard of the famous study conducted in the 1950’s in which only 3% of students graduating from Yale had written goals for their future. By 1973, those 3% were worth more than the other 97% put together. Enough said.
4. Keep yourself and your team focused on the benefits (not just the rewards!) of success. You and your top team run the risk of losing focus if you don’t feel you can make it – and when you lose sight of the goal. This is about helping your team visualize the goal in real and vivid ways. When you all have that picture, it will be much easier to maintain focus.
5. Constantly measure progress against milestones. Writing down a goal isn’t enough. A plan of action will help you keep on track. What will you do when? How will you measure progress? What are the appropriate KPIs to measure?
Looking forward to hearing your reports of successful achievement in 2010!
Fraser Hurrell is one of three directors of Elevate CA Limited, Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors in Whangarei, New Zealand.
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