Whether you’re in business for yourself in a small entrepreneurial enterprise or part of a larger corporate organisation, it’s important to acknowledge that growth will only come when we take actionable steps towards our goals – and of course, that means we must first recognise our dreams and goals, as well as set a measured time to get there. That’s why goal setting and accountability is so important. The actions you take may only be small steps towards your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), but unless there is some accountability, the goal is unlikely to be met. It’s far too common to get complacent and leave our dreams on the backburner. Some of us might get close to our ultimate vision for our business or even exceed our dreams, but for many of us, we often fall short.
Why is that? Why do we speak so passionately about all our ambitions either internally or to others (often both, when we’re excited), but eventually fail? It’s because we lack accountability behaviours and goal setting techniques. These are fundamental for evolving your vision from just a thought, into reality.
So, what is accountability?
Accountability can be likened to compliance. When you’ve signed a contract for any of your business transactions and partnerships, you’re legally bound to comply with the terms you’ve agreed to. And if you ‘sign a contract’ for your BHAG vision, you can hold yourself accountable to the terms that are associated with the actionable steps that will lead you towards that vision.
Why is this so important? Without holding yourself accountable for your vision, it’s as good as dreaming about something and never doing anything about it. We must be responsible for our actions and decisions, and a great way to do this is through goal setting and accountability.
Effective goal setting techniques
Effective goals are ‘SMART’ goals. It’s a common goal setting technique in the workplace, used as a guideline to aid performance reviews, and for good reason. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound goal setting. Having this acronym in mind when setting personal and professional goals can assist the process of goal setting by making your actions more efficient.
- Start with the Specifics and Measure them
First ask if the goal is specific enough with measurable metrics that comply with your long-term vision. For instance, ‘I want to increase profit by 5% through exports in the next 2 years’ is far more specific than ‘I want to grow my business by 5%’.
- Make it achievable
It’s critical to ensure you don’t set your goal posts too wide – actionable steps need to be achievable. It may be tempting to get goals done quickly, but in the case of the previous example, 2 years gives you a reasonable time-frame to work to, and if you achieve your goal faster than you expected, then there is cause for celebration.
- Keep it Relevant and Time-bound
Finally, your actionable steps need to be relevant to your long-term goal with a realistic end date, to not only increase accountability, but also motivation. By putting an entry in your calendar, you make your goal time-bound, rather than forever changing the goal posts.
But how do you keep these SMART goals accessible? A good place to start is by writing your goals and actionable steps down where they are frequently visible for you. Prior to upgrades in technology, it was common to write these down on sticky-notes and place them in your most frequented areas, such as the bedroom, office and/or kitchen. If reviewing post-it notes will hold you accountable to your goals, then continue. However, with technology constantly improving, it’s easier to use software that can keep you accountable, reviewing your goals regularly to ensure you’re on track. You can even set them up on your smartphone’s wallpaper, so you’re always reminded of what you need to achieve, and when.
Ways to improve accountability
- Develop a routine.
Holding yourself accountable to the specifics of your goals can be made simpler by developing daily tasks you adhere to. For instance, if you want to attend 20 networking events in the next 6 months, make it part of your routine that you must attend a District32 networking event every fortnight. This accountability behaviour ensures you adhere to the smaller milestone, while contributing to your bigger goal. Over time, you will also develop discipline, which will make holding yourself accountable to your goals easier.
- Work on time management
Many of us often complain we don’t have time to work towards our goals, despite them being important to us. As previously discussed in goal setting techniques, it’s essential to ensure your goals are time bound. Another simple way to improve accountability behaviours is by working backwards from each actionable step’s due-date and scheduling focused time in your calendar to work towards achieving the desired outcome.
- Develop your own KPIs
Measure the success towards each goal by using your own key performance indicators. There are many ways you can do this but find a way that works for you. Using software, like Microsoft Excel for example, to plot each step towards your goal including information on the goal and when it’s due by, will hold you accountable by measuring the percentage towards completion. For instance, if we look at our example of attending a District32 networking event each fortnight until we reach 20 – mark a cell next to the relevant goal with the date you attended the event. For some, colour coordinating items or plotting the results in a graph can increase a sense of accomplishment, so add this for a motivating element.
- Celebrate success
No matter how small, it’s important to acknowledge each time you have achieved an actionable step towards your BHAG. Whether that’s sharing your achievement on social media, having a drink to celebrate with colleagues after work, or treating yourself to a massage to acknowledge the occasion, celebrating your achieved goal will keep you motivated to keep moving forward to your bigger vision, or give you inspiration to create another.
As you can see, healthy goal setting and accountability behaviours are critical to long-term success. Start with a few SMART goals, and work from there to get closer to reaching your dreams.
Keep in mind to continue learning and growing by understanding SMART goals and more ways to be accountable. We’ve also gone into detail about the importance of accountability in business, which you can read about here.
And if you want to know more, or discuss any of this in detail, don’t hesitate to contact us at District32, where we have a wealth of resources to assist businesses in all stages of growth.