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The Golden Rule of Goal Setting

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On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy announced we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon with the first human visitors. It was a remarkable achievement that history will not forget.   

Now, I doubt that you’ve set goals for your company that will be as historical as that moment. However, the way Kennedy formulated the goal played a huge role in it being achieved. As Franklin Covey teaches in his method, Kennedy put his goal in simple terms: X to Y by WHEN. He stated where we were (X being the earth), where we were going (Y being the moon) and when we would get there (the “when” being the end of the decade).  Imagine if Kennedy had said, “We will be the world leader in space travel.” How do we define that? If we state our goals without specifics, our team will likely develop their own definition of the company goals as well.   

I took a two-day intensive course from Franklin Covey called the Four Disciplines of Execution, where I learned how to state goals is such a specific way that everyone involved knew exactly what we were trying to achieve.   

Before taking this class, I was the worst performer in paint materials gross profit percentage, by far, in the 20 Group I was in. No matter what I tried, we rarely made any improvement in the KPI. After taking the class, I reworded our goal into the X to Y by WHEN format. Sure enough, two months later, we had doubled our paint materials gross profit. Yes, we did more than just reword our goal, but looking back, I am convinced that if we didn’t word our goal in that format, we would not have made any improvement.    

It’s common to use the destination when formulating our goals. We might say that we want to achieve a 60 percent gross profit on labor sales. While that is an important aspect, knowing where you want to go is not enough. While it might be obvious to the person who is stating the goal, it might not be so obvious to the people responsible for achieving the goal.   

You might be hesitant to buy into this concept because it seems so simple, but I can tell you from my own experience that the goals I’ve set using this format have achieved a 100 percent success rate. Now, I don’t have exact data on our success rate for the goals where I didn’t use this format, but I can tell you it was not close to 100 percent. I shared this goal setting format with local business owners in other industries and they have all adopted this format for stating their company goals.  

Putting your goals into this format is the first step in achieving them. However, there is a crucial second part that, if not followed, will certainly derail your team: the number of goals you work on at one time.    

Franklin Covey has worked with all sorts of companies all over the world. They have enough data to prove what has worked, and what doesn’t. The course I took was dead set on their position that three goals is the max to work on any given time. The companies that worked on 1-3 goals at a time had a 93 percent success rate in achieving them. And, they found the 7 percent that didn’t achieve them usually didn’t follow all the steps outlined in the Four  Disciplines of Execution. Meanwhile, the companies that set more than three goals maxed out at a 50 percent success rate.   

I’m aware of the climate of our industry. There are so many changes going on in the collision repair industry that it gives us endless opportunities for goal setting. We can work on ADAS strategies, getting more OE certifications, hiring another tech, increasing our top or bottom line, and so on. I’m sure you would like to achieve all those goals this year. 

So, how do you narrow the list down to 1-3 items? The term we learned from Franklin Covey was “wildly important goals,” or WIGs. What are the goals that, if you hit them, will have the largest impact on your business? Those are the ones to set as your WIGs and put the other items on the side for now. It doesn’t mean you won’t concentrate on the others at all, but they are not going to be your main focus.   

It’s nearing the end of the first quarter; it’s time to check in and see how you are doing on the goals you set. If you are not where you want to be, take a look at how the goal is stated, and how many you set. It might be time to tweak your goals to set up your team for success. 

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