In business the first step is to know the profit drivers. This sounds simple enough, but many businesses lack the right focus on these key areas simply because no one has taken time to identify them. As a result the goals are set on things that affect profitability, but are not profit drivers. For example, someone might say that controlling expenses is a key profit driver for their business and then they make it one of their goals. While this is true, controlling expenses is a responsibility and is just something that a good business person should do. It is not really worthy of being one of our precious goals (precious because we should work hard not to have too many to focus on). A much better goal would be to understand the areas of the business that are most profitable, and set a goal to do more of that type of business. Take a professional trade (plumber, electrician, etc) type of business for example. For a business like this, an appropriate goal would be to increase the number of service calls by x units/percentage, if that is what is most profitable to them.
The same rings true for those working within the business that set their own professional goals. Profit is not a bad word. Profit is a key measurement of success, and without it a business cannot buy assets, give raises, or provide growth opportunities, and will ultimately fail. The question is how an individual employee affects the profitability of an organization. The best and only position to be in is to know one’s worth to the organization, and to know what one does that makes the organization more profitable. Take a Project Manager in an IT Services organization for example. A project is sold and then it is typically handed over to one of these folks to handle until the project is completely finished and billed out. One of the key profit drivers for a project manager is monthly/annual billing. A more billable project manager is more profitable to the organization, and thus more valuable as a resource. The project manager should make it a goal to bill out a certain amount over a specific period of time. While there are many other important goals related to personal growth, we must make sure to have a keen focus on our individual profit contributions to the organization.
In regards to personal goals one of the most common mistakes is to set goals that make others happy rather than one’s self. After drafting personal goals, take a look at the list and for each one ask if it is based on what will make you happy, or if it is intended to make someone else happy. Rather than confuse these comments with encouragement to be selfish, realize that doing what makes us happy can be a truly unselfish act, and that these are the goals that ultimately get accomplished by the end of a year because we are passionate about them. The others seem to get moved from one year to the next on our list. For example, do not make it a goal to get involved in a charitable organization if you are just doing so because it is “what a good person should do”. Do it because it is something YOU want to do. When a goal is based on something that you are not passionate about, it will not likely be accomplished, and if it did it would leave both sides feeling unfulfilled. As another example, if you are passionate about a specific charity or just helping others in general, then this type of goal is something that makes you happy and it will naturally make a positive impact on others.
As a closing thought – always filter goals before making them final. For business/career oriented goals, ask how achieving such a goal will affect profitability. If it is a hard question to answer, either remove or move it lower in the priority ranking. For personal goals always ask “Am I doing this for me, or for someone else?”.
The largest hurdle in becoming a leader is one’s preconceived notion that it is someone else’s job to grow them or to notice them. Without the right perception it is easy to be stifled by getting caught up in what is fair or not fair. Leaders do not think in terms of what is fair or not fair, they think in terms of what is the right way to be and always side with what is the right thing to do, even if it requires extra effort or difficult decisions. Also, extra effort does not always offer a reward; those that believe it will, end up being disappointed and routinely discount the purpose of going the extra mile; they give up and fall back to only doing what is required, and sometimes they never try again. Therefore, tenacity is an additional requirement to having the right perception.
Many say our younger generations have too strong a sense of entitlement, which is hard to argue. However, entitlement is present across every living generation in America. It is detrimental to our ability to have a greater population of leaders. The majority think…… I deserve that next opportunity because I have been here longer. Or, I deserve it because I have these credentials. Or maybe they believe that something great is just going to fall in their lap – just because. Now compare to this type of thinking… Great things will happen if I consistently do more than is required of me; I have to take it upon myself to learn and start acting the part of a new role, long before anyone will offer it to me; If I want a mentor, I need to go find them; If I lack a skill that will be required to succeed in the role I desire, I need to go get it on my own time and effort; If I can be better, it is my job to hold myself accountable and continuously seek ways to improve. Ahhhhhhhhh, refreshing! This latter way of thinking is what allows individuals to grow and succeed in any size organization, whereas the more entitled way of thinking can only possibly work in poorly managed organizations, or in large bureaucratic organizations. Both of which eventually put two and two together and it ends poorly for all, and the worst part is that the individuals lacking the right perception will blame poor endings on everyone but themselves. Those with the right perception (leaders and future leaders) always blame poor results on themselves, and are always first to give credit for achievements to those they lead.
Similar to quitting a bad habit or achieving any large obstacle in life – a significant change in perception is required to become a leader, and to continue growing as one. And what makes it so hard to do is that the individual is the only one who can do it for themselves.
Leaders are creative when it comes to big picture thinking. They also have the ability to get granular when it is time for execution. For any organization on a calendar year budget, this (November) is the time of year to start defining initiatives, goals, and the overall budget for next year. For those on other budget cycles, you have not forgotten how the process goes and the intensity needed to be thorough and get it just right. The budget process is just one example of where big picture thinking is needed to make the broad brush strokes, while we also have to drill down to the granularity to give authenticity to the big picture of where we want to be in the future. A plan is dead without the ability to execute, and execution is boring without creative/big picture thinking by every member of the leadership team, and as many others in the organization who are ready and willing to participate.
Leaders must continue to think big. While we can adjust our level of creative thinking to the current need, it must never stop. It is not something that can wait until a specific date, because ideas typically are not executed until long after inception. The majority of big ideas take years to execute. Rarely can you turn on the creative thinking 1-2 months before a plan is needed – especially one that determines the success of the organization. Big ideas and creative thinking are a constant responsibility of the Leaders in every organization. One great example, is that in my organization, we have an exciting new offering that has a chance of really making a difference in our success in 2012, however it has been an “idea” for 4 years. It took us that long to get it right, to understand the amount of investment it would take, to test the idea with customers/prospects, and then to get all the resources in place.
Waiting to think big is the same as waiting to grow. Less than 5-10 percent of our ideas have a chance of making it, so they do need to be numerous. When one materializes, it is time to hit the semi-pause (semi, because leaders should never stop thinking big) button, and get granular in defining what success will look like. The next step is to pull the right team together and turn the idea into reality. Then let the creative juices start flowing at full throttle again.
It may sound crazy, but the budgeting/planning process should be FUN!. Not just for planners, but for everyone, because it is the time when all the team’s big ideas that we have been testing and tweaking, actually end up being supported by a formal plan and goals. At this point, we are that much closer to realizing the results of what was once just an idea that seemed well out of reach, and sometimes even impossible.