In a week, we’ll be one quarter of the way through 2021, so I want to know: How are you doing on your professional goals?
Regardless of where you stand, a week from now, the first quarter will be over, and we will all be left with some choices.
If you’re ahead of your goals, do you slow down and make time for other things, knowing that you’ll still hit your goals for the year? Or do you maintain speed and exceed your goals?
If you’re right on track, are you comfortable with that? Can you sustain that for the rest of the year?
If you’re behind, how much ground do you need to make up? Does it need to be made up yesterday, or can the difference be spread over the next three quarters? What do you need to change in order to reach your goals?
Then, we have to take the often-overlooked step and make sure the goal we set months ago is still the right one.
Things change, and we are all, hopefully, taking in new information all the time, so it’s okay if goals change, too.
Quitting a goal because it’s “too hard” or “too much work” is a bad strategy in life. Changing your goals because your perspective has changed, your life has changed, or you just realized it wasn’t what you wanted in the first place, is an entirely different matter.
So, now that we’re a quarter in, let’s evaluate our goals. This is done in a few simple, but not necessarily easy, steps:
First, Objectively Evaluate Where You Are and How You Got Here.
Start by looking at the data. Data, if compiled with integrity, is going to tell you exactly where you are toward your goal. (If you don’t have data, what the heck are you doing? You can’t manage what you don’t measure.) From the data, where did you successfully hit your quarterly goals? Where did you fall short?
If you didn’t execute your plan and fell short of your goals, the answer seems self-evident, yes? If there were outside factors that prevented you from executing your plan, how can you adapt to those moving forward?
But what if someone executes their plan, but doesn’t get the end result they wanted? In that case, we have to dive a little deeper.
Was the plan flawed from the start, or are there factors the plan failed to consider? Is the plan precise enough that we can even judge whether or not it was executed well, or is it full of vague words like “more” and “less”, which define a direction, but not a goal?
Identifying the root cause of the disconnect between expected results and actual results, and mapping out the changes you need to make in a very specific way, will help you hit your goal moving forward.
On the other side, if someone successfully hits their goals, it’s still important to take a look at how they did it.
If you hit your goals, did you execute precisely on the plan you set in December? Or did you riff a little to get better results? Are there any places you saw along the way that make you think you could do even better moving forward? How can you adjust, and perhaps more importantly in some areas, how can you maintain?
Looking at how you managed to hit your goals will put you in the best position to continue hitting your goals. In our office, I tell my team that the worst thing that can happen to a recruiter is success, because people take their foot off the gas. We try to prevent this by constantly reviewing what we can do better.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate the wins, you certainly should, but you should also take a look at how they happened, so that your success can be repeated.
Once you’ve objectively evaluated where you are and how you got there, it’s time to take the next step…
Decide If the Larger, Yearly Goal is Still What You Want or Need.
Three months in, is the goal you set in December still what you want?
Have circumstances changed? If big life events have occurred and suddenly the goals of three months ago aren’t important anymore, that’s okay.
Has your perspective changed? You might now realize the cost is too high physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, to be worth the benefit of the end goal. It’s okay to do that cost/benefit analysis and change your goals. My Director of Operations wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up, but the realization that roller coasters made him queasy told him he’s probably not the right guy for that job. So, he changed his aim.
If you hit your quarterly goals, and now realize that your end goal is too small, there’s nothing wrong with adjusting upward, as well.
If you didn’t hit your quarterly goals, and now realize that your end goal is even more important to you than you thought, there’s nothing wrong with keeping the goal as is, as long as you’re willing to adjust your actions to get to it.
Finally, You Must Adjust the Plan to Match the Goal AND OWN IT.
If you hit, or exceeded, your first quarter goal, you’ve identified what actions made you successful, and your plan is to stay the course, then keep going.
If you fell short of your first quarter goal, and are keeping the same yearly goal, what do you need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis to get back on track? What tactical changes can you make to ensure you hit those daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly benchmarks?
If you changed your goal for any of the reasons we talked about above, what is the new plan?
At the end of the day, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and if you fail to plan precisely, you generally plan to fail, as well.
On top of this planning, you also have to take full ownership of your plan to be successful. Yes, the market is going to do weird things. The weather is going to do weird things. The cosmos itself is plotting against you to prevent you from getting to your goal. You can use these, or many, many other things, as excuses for not reaching your goal, or you can focus on what YOU can do if these things happen. What adaptations can you make to take control of your results?
Regardless of whether you’re staying the course, trying a whole new plan, or even shooting for an all-new goal, taking time to look at the data, see where you are, and evaluate how you got here is almost always time well spent.
Once you’ve established or adjusted the goal and planned, though, it’s time to get to work.