What does success mean to you?
Imagine being successful… how would you feel?
What does success mean to you? It can mean many things to many people, it could be making lots of money, being healthy and fit, getting in touch with your spiritual side, continually learning, being involved with your family or having a wonderful social network. Often success varies depending on the stage of your life. What made you feel successful as a child is very different to when you first started a job, and then after 30 years of working your measures of success are different again. Your financial and fitness expectations and goals as a child may be very different to those you have now as an adult.
One definition of success is the ‘progressive realisation of worthwhile, predetermined goals’.
What is common to all stages of life is setting goals – a goal is a target or a destination. To be successful you need to know where you are going, your destination in life. These goals also have to be worthwhile to you, to instil the drive and motivation to do the hard work to achieve them. What’s great about this definition is the ‘progressive realisation’, meaning you get to choose your purpose, your goals or your destination. The term progressive means, over time goals will change as your life changes. As a boy, I would happily run 10 km and while now I ride a bicycle every Sunday with friends. Either way I am achieving my fitness goal.
Business goals are reflected in the strategic plan which typically is for 3 to 5 years. For a business to succeed it will require a strategic plan which maps out the future direction, identifies the resources required to achieve the plan and to monitor its progress. A sound business strategic plan is supported by an operating strategy, a marketing strategy, a risk management strategy, a technology strategy, and a people strategy etc. These strategies are made up of aligned goals which will identify the critical issues for the business and determine the measures of success.
In the context of being a manager the goals may be to gain new skills in a particular area of leadership, to reduce the amount of stress and tension, make more time for planning, become self-aware, and raise the productivity of the team or to encourage others to accept more responsibility. These individual manager goals may need to be aligned to the overall business plan.
What does a successful project look like? One thought is, if it achieved its goals by delivering the promised benefits to the business on time and on schedule. Delivering a successful project is not always easy, the scope can change, costs may increase and there could be conflict.
So how does a successful team work together and function? This can be challenging because a team comprises of individuals with their own goals. People all have different perspectives and contrasting drivers, together with their own individual goals. It would be a huge mistake to think that everyone in a team would be constantly aligned to common goals.
A manager needs to work with the team, to create a cohesive and motivated team built on trust. The team should not fear conflict, be committed to the task, accountable and focused on common project goals. The more a manager can align a person’s individual goals to the project goals the closer they are to having a successful team that will deliver a successful project.
Setting of goals
To be successful as an individual in your personal, work life, as a manager leading a team, or in running a business you need to set goals. The goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. The goals are SMART:
Specific – a specific thing or output created by the activity, the result. This is the what, why and how of the SMART model and should be simplistically written and clearly defined as to what you or the team are going to do.
Measurable – Goals, the result or outcome, should be measurable so you have tangible evidence that you or the team accomplished the goal. Usually, the entire goal statement is a measure for the project, but there are often several short-term or smaller measurements built into the goal that individuals in the team can directly influence.
Achievable – Goals should be achievable; they may stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, whilst being defined well enough so you can achieve them. It’s important that you and your team have the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to achieve the goal otherwise you are setting yourself and the team up for failure.
Realistic – A goal must be realistic; otherwise your drive and momentum will wane very quickly. Giving yourself and your team unrealistic goals can be very de-motivating as you and the team become frustrated and simply do the minimum. As a manager you will lose credibility and trust.
Timely – Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency. Otherwise they will never get done. Creating tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal is a great way to provide a ‘wake-up call’. Without this urgency the goal is unlikely to produce a relevant outcome.
Some simple examples of goals:
- A short-term personal goal is to cook dinner with the family on Friday night
- A medium-term personal goal is to walk five kilometres in two hours in preparation for a hiking holiday to China in August.
- A short-term project goal is to complete the work breakdown structure for Project ABC by the end of June.
- A medium-term project goal is to complete the feasibility study for Project XYZ by the end of the year.
- A business strategic goal is to increase market share by 5% within the next 5 years.
Goals over time
Another dimension of achieving goals is the amount of focused effort required over a specific time span. Setting goals is the easy part. Doing the work along the way requires deliberate focus. This is the same for personal, project and business goals. Having targets along the way is invaluable as it motivates you and your team to work towards the target. A common failing is to wait for the ultimate goal to be complete and not celebrating success along the way. Our apathy can creep in and focus can shift elsewhere. Constantly monitoring effort and progress along the journey is just as important as setting the goals.