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Published on January 14, 2019

What Are Measurable Goals and Why You Need Them For Success

What Are Measurable Goals and Why You Need Them For Success

Daydreams can be delightful. We are mesmerized by the idea of things that are new, exciting, that change our lives and prospects. This is the basis for state lottery systems. They sell one-dollar daydream machines.

There is nothing wrong with a good daydream, unless they keep you from working toward a goal, and goals are only vaguely related to daydreams. A goal is specific and obtainable through planning and diligence. Daydreams can be turned into goals, but this requires work. Since some people are immune to work, they continue to daydream instead. They will not endeavor to do the Tough Things First that are the initial steps toward achieving goals.

Why Measurement Matters

One of my marketing director’s favorite lines is “If it cannot be expressed in numbers, then it is not a fact, just an opinion.” This is true. Likewise, a desired outcome that cannot be measured is a daydream, not a goal.

It is defining outcomes, then establishing how they will be measured, that creates a goal.

On my journey to becoming Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, I set many goals, and had some set for me. Each had a specific and numeric mode for measuring if the goals were reached. I went into business for myself because I never wanted to work for anyone else, ever again.

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I succeeded in that goal, and it was a simple enough measurement – 37 years without a boss. Well, at least not at the office – home is a different matter.

I also had a goal of not enabling anyone to take over operational control of my semiconductor company. In Silicon Valley, this meant not taking venture capital money because VCs manhandle startup CEOs, often kicking them to the curb if rapid growth is not achieved. My alternative was to borrow a lot of money from banks, who normally do not lend to startups like mine.

In my process of twisting banker’s arms until they lent me the money to start my company, they added many very specific success measurements. My debt to equity ratio target became one-to-one. Three profitable quarters in each year was required. Each was a goal unto itself, and measurable with math. Each of these smaller goals, added to my own business goals, then became the checkpoints for knowing if I was to achieve the big goal of being boss-free for the rest of my days.

Now, imagine doing any of this – earning a salary without a boss, convincing bankers to lend you money, running a successful enterprise – without goals. You likely came to the quick realization that an unmeasurable goal has no end nor a real start. It is a daydream and nothing more.

What Are Measurable Goals

Goals must be realistic. Realism is goal setting gold.

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You might have the daydream of flapping your arms and soaring with the eagles, but that is not realistic. However, a goal of increasing your sales closing rate by 5% is realistic and in no small part because you have a valid measurement.

Similarly, you can daydream about losing some weight (vague) or you can define a weight loss goal of 10 pounds before your high school reunion (specific, numeric and time constrained). The specificity of your goal is the first step to success. This gives you an endpoint and makes it tangible. It also provides you the terms for measuring your success.

One realistic goal, well defined, is very likely to come true. One unrealistic goal is likely to fail. A realistic goal with lousy definition is impossible to achieve, for there is no actual goal. And 100 goals will all fail because no human can chase that many objectives.

These are the reasons most New Year resolutions die quick deaths.

When making New Years goals, people tend to be vague. Scanning social media for common New Year’s resolutions people have posted, I see way too many entries like “start a new hobby”, “travel” and “read more books”. If I indulged in wagering, I’d bet a lot of cash that none of those goals came true because none were specific.

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However, if they were restated as “build a table-top size HO train model”, “spend a week exploring Thailand” and “read three leadership books starting with Tough Things First”, then most of these goals would be met. Each is realistic. Each is measurable. Each can easily have an action plan built around it.

If you want a real-world example, let’s talk about a friend of mine. On the side he is a semi-pro musician and songwriter. But aside from an occasional gig at a local saloon, he was not doing much with the songs he had written. A year ago, he set a goal of producing his first solo album, and that it had to have at least 10 songs on it. Clear goals. He had no band, no deep recording experience, and really no money for studio time. But nine months later, he released his first album.

One reason he was able to achieve this was that he temporarily shoved aside his other passions. This was, in effect, reducing the number of goals he was working toward. Remember, I said that a small number of realistic and well-defined goals is doable. This is precisely what he did.

This begs an interesting question, namely “How many goals can, or should I pursue at one time?” Though the number varies depending on the person and their daily circumstances, the proper range is less than five and for most folks maybe three.

Sundry studies have shown that people max-out at remembering or prioritizing three things. It stands to reason that they could not likely handle more than three significant goals simultaneously. More than three begs dividing limited time, resources and attention to doing your best at any one of them.

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Since there is little or no value to only partially achieving a goal, why risk doing poorly on five goals when doing really well at three, or two, or one really important goal is more satisfying?

The Bottom Line

All this said, one thing really helps in succeeding at reaching a goal. If it is personal to you – deeply, movingly personal – you will have the drive and the stamina to work past the tiny frustrations that often accompany pursuit of a goal. Self-improvement goals tend to be the most personal since they involve making a better you.

Want a great New Year. Simple. Set two well-defined, personal improvement goals that can be measured. Odds are you will succeed, and the glow of success makes it that much easier to repeat the process again, and again, and again.

More Resources About Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Green Chameleon via unsplash.com

More by this author

Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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Encourage Your Employees

When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

Offer Rewards

Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

Give Autonomy

Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

A To Do Scheduling System

Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

“The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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Ask If They like What They’re Doing

If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

More Resources About Team Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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