6 Steps to Achieving your Goals

Process, Team Health, Traction

According to a recent article by Douglas Vermeeren in Reliable Plant magazine, only 20 percent of the population actually sets goals for themselves. Of that 20 percent, roughly 70 percent of those goals are not achieved. That equates to only 14% of the population setting and achieving goals. While I see better success rates from the business I work with, in the early stages of our work together, most entrepreneurial businesses are only accomplishing around 40% of their goals on time.

After 6 years of working with over 80 organizations in over 900 full days of Planning Sessions, I am finding a very common thread among those who are succeeding and those who are not – a lack of capacity. All of the systems and planning in the world will not work if you do not first create capacity.

6 Steps to Achieving your Goals

Step 1: Create Capacity

In their book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, authors McChesney, Covey and Huling cite what they call the “whirlwind.” The whirlwind is all of the massive amounts of energy that are required to keep your operation going on a day-to-day basis. It is the #1 enemy of strategic execution.

The problem is that most entrepreneurs and their leadership teams spend nearly 100% of their capacity in the whirlwind. When you do that, you are not prioritizing your time to focus on the big-picture strategic goals that will grow your company and are choosing instead to prioritize staying in the weeds, doing work that could be delegated to lower cost per hour employees. As leaders and managers you must first focus on a skill we teach as part of EOS® called delegate and elevate. You must learn to delegate what drains you and focus on doing what fulfills you.

Step 2: Identify the Vital

Many things are important, but in business and in life, only a precious few are truly vital. You must understand and focus on the difference and prioritize accordingly.

Start by painting a 3-Year Picture™ of where you want the organization to be in 3 short years. Then, thinking about where you want your company to be in 3 years, where does it need to be in 1 year? In order to get where you need to be in 1 year, and to set yourself up to achieve your 3-Year Picture™ while at the same time focusing on your issues (I suggest doing a SWOT analysis and building an issues list), what are the 3 to 7 vital goals that must be accomplished in the next year? Write them down. At EOS®, we teach a tool called the Vision/Traction Organizer™ (V/TO).

Step 3: Set Quarterly Rocks

Following Steven Covey’s analogy from his book First Things First, as an EOS® Implementer I teach quarterly goals as Rocks. The 3 to 7 (less is more) most vital things that must get done in the next 90 days in order to reach your annual goals and/or remove the obstacles and barriers (Issues) that are standing in the way.

To set successful Rocks, they must be SMART Rocks.

Specific – It must be crystal clear to the entire team exactly what “done” looks like for each Rock

Measurable – You must be able to measure and define the finish line

Attainable – Everyone must be 100% committed that the Rock is attainable, even if a stretch, and the team must agree to hold each other accountable for getting the Rocks done

Relevant – The Rocks must be relevant to the Annual Goals or to removing an obstacle or barrier. This ensures alignment to the Vital Goals.

Timely – The current quarter must be the right time to focus on the specific Rocks

Step 4: Set Milestones

During the quarter, on your way to accomplishing your Rock, define what “on track to win” looks like. Think about the few major hurdles you must cross to accomplish the Rock. Establish a timeline that includes SMART milestones with due dates and focus on one milestone at a time.

Think about it like golf. If you want to shoot par, you have to take it one hole at a time. In order to par the hole, most golf professionals will tell you to focus on 3 “milestones”: fairways hit, greens in regulation, and putts. If you hit the fairway off the tee, make the green in regulation, and get in the hole in no more than 2 putts, you will par the hole. That’s why if I’m playing golf and there are wagers on the line, I hit my 3-wood off the tee rather than my driver. I don’t focus on the entire hole, just hitting the fairway. My fairways hit goes up, which sets me up to more likely hit the green in regulation which increases my odds of finishing the hole in no more than 2 putts. It’s when I get greedy on the tee and start thinking about eagle on a par-5 and try to cut the woods and carry the pond that I snap-hook and end up taking a penalty along with the ridicule of the rest of my foursome.

Step 5: Create Accountability with a Meeting Pulse

Create a weekly cadence for a high-value, focused meeting of the leadership team. Report on measurables and Rocks and solve issues for anything that is not on track to be 100% done by the due date. This allows healthy teams to hold each other accountable and execute at a much higher level than teams who do not.

I teach my clients to hold what we call Level-10 Meetings. These meetings are on the same day and at the same time each week, start on time, end on time, and follow the same agenda. As my clients progress in running solid Level-10 Meetings, they find that on a scale of 1-10, the value of their time meeting together goes from an average of around a 4 or 5 to a consistent 9-10.

Step 6: Establish a Quarterly Rhythm

Every 90 days, before you set your new goals for the quarter, meet as a team offsite to avoid distractions and reflect on the prior quarter.

What did you accomplish? What did you do that helped you succeed? What didn’t get done? If you had it to do over again, what would you have done differently in order to be successful? Have you created the capacity to spend the necessary time focused on the vital things, or have you sacrificed the vital to spend your time buried in the whirlwind?

Parting Thoughts

Focus on the lessons learned and carry those lessons forward as you repeat the steps above. Focus on continual progress over perfection because growing a business is all about positive momentum. And don’t forget to celebrate your wins!

 

Written by Michael Erath, Certified EOS Implementer™, Scaling Up Coach, Best-Selling Author and Founder of The Traction Hub

Next Steps

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Less But Better

Entrepreneurial Freedom, Process, Team Health, Traction

Are you spread too thin? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels? You may be a victim of the Paradox of Success.

It was Socrates who said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I remember as a child observing my parents, and as I reflect back on those days, a piece of me longs for the simplicity.

My father was a very successful entrepreneur. Born in 1927 and growing up dirt poor in Chicago following the Great Depression, my father went on to build multiple successful businesses, chair multiple boards and foundations, and was honored both with the High Point University baseball field carrying his name and being voted High Point, North Carolina’s 1987 Citizen of the Year. He was a great philanthropist and accomplished a great deal.

But every evening he would come home from work around 6:00 pm and watch the news. At 7:00, we would have dinner at the dining room table as a family…and talk. We traveled often. In the summertime after dinner, he and I would throw the baseball or football until dark, and in the winter months, we would watch TV as a family or just talk. He never stayed up late working after I went to bed. He never missed a game because he was too busy. Success did not require busyness in the 1970s and 80s—nor does it need to today.

I recently turned 49. He was 44 when I was born. In the passing of a generation, so much has changed. Our work follows us home because we are constantly connected. If we don’t make an effort, our family time is overrun by screens. Even on our weekends, we get lured into checking email. And with our family, we rarely, as Mr. Miyagi said in Karate Kid, “Look eye!”

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day…” Touché.

The Paradox of Success

In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, author Greg McKeown describes a “paradox of success.”

With success come opportunities and more options. But these options and opportunities often distract us and lure us away from what is truly vital in our life. Oh the temptations…I have heard their siren songs many times, and wrote about it in my Amazon Best Selling book, RISE: The Reincarnation of an Entrepreneur. Our clarity begins to fade. We take on too much and find ourselves juggling too many things. No longer able to go a mile in one direction, we find ourselves fighting to go barely an inch in a million directions.

Ultimately, our success becomes the foundation of our failure.

Less but Better

Finding your way to a life based on the idea of less but better will yield three significant outcomes: more clarity, more control, and more joy.

More Clarity

One way to begin the process of shedding the things that have become distractions is to think about the handful of things in your life that are truly vital. For me, it is time with my wife, connection with my adult sons, travel, time for health and fitness, time for living my faith, and time for helping others. What are yours?

Once you know the answer, you can begin to make a list of all the things you pack into a day, a week, a month, and a year. Of the things on that list, which of them actually increase your capacity to spend time on what is vital and which things on the list detract from the same? Start small, but start. Begin the process of saying “no” and shedding the things that are taking away from your time to focus on what is vital.

When you do this, as Greg McKeown says, “Every day it becomes more clear than the day before how the essential things are so much more important than the next most important thing in line.”

More Control

As you continue to shed the distractions, you will find that fewer people have control over your time and your life, and instead, you become increasingly in control. If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else surely will.

More Joy

When you are able to focus with clarity on the handful of things that are vital in your life, you will find yourself more focused in the moment. Free from distraction, you will be able to live life more fully. It was the Dali Lama who wrote, “If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness.”

I think he is right.

Next Steps

Learn more about how The TRACTION Hub can help you and your organization clarify, simplify, and achieve your vision. Schedule a discovery call to see if EOS® and The TRACTION Hub are a good match for your organization.

Written by Michael Erath, Master Facilitator, Certified EOS Implementer™, Best-Selling Author and Founder of The Traction Hub

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Scale Up Faster By Slowing Down

Entrepreneurial Freedom, Process, Traction

When you drive your car, do you keep the engine redlined, ignore the warning lights on the dash, and turn up the radio so you don’t hear the noises coming from somewhere underneath? My hope is that you don’t. So why do so many entrepreneurs do exactly those things when driving their business and trying to scale up?

I may be dating myself, but for those of us who learned to drive a manual transmission, you know that in order to shift gears smoothly you have to ease off the throttle. If you have ever driven on icy, slick roads, you know that if you lose traction, you have to slow down to regain your grip.

Running a business is no different. I was recently facilitating an EOS® quarterly off-site with a leadership team of a growing business. They had just opened their second location and their big goal, or Core Target™ as we call it in the EOS® world, was to systemize the model and scale up to 20 locations by 2025. Their Visionary owner had been passionately driving toward that goal since we met.

But there was a problem. They were running into customer-service issues, having trouble hitting numbers, not communicating well, and struggling to define and document their Core Processes.

As we began to dig deeper into what the underlying issues truly were, to a person, the Leadership Team members all admitted to being stretched well beyond their capacity. To use the analogy above, they were all redlined and the Visionary owner still had her foot on the gas and the pedal to the floor. They needed to speak up and just say no to grow.

I was eventually able to push the team to the point of being 100% open and honest with the Visionary about the aggressive drive to the Core Target™ and how they were struggling to scale up while the engine for their growth sputtered and skipped as it needed a tune-up. After some very open discussions, the Visionary began to have a revelation.

We transitioned into a conversation about what it would look like to take a breath for the next 6-12 months, focus on fine-tuning the engine and letting growth happen organically, and then, only after the engine was rebuilt and ready, hitting the gas and going hard for the finish line.

With a fresh perspective from the Visionary and a much relieved and refocused Leadership Team, we refined their 3-Year Picture™ and 1-Year Plan, then set Rocks to focus on an alignment around solving their internal issues and tuning the business to scale up in years 2, 3, and beyond.

6 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Blow Your Engine

  1. Do we have the growth engine for our business well tuned and ready for the journey ahead?
  2. Do we have a clear structure in place, defining the flow of accountability to get us to the next level?
  3. Are all of the right people in the right seats?
  4. Does everyone in the organization share our Vision? Are we all 100% aligned?
  5. Is our Business Playbook (our Core Processes) defined, optimized, documented and Followed by All?
  6. Do we have good data and does everyone in the organization have a number?

As we closed our session at the end of the day, the feedback was unanimous. Everyone, including the Visionary, felt more confident and aligned. Even though the pace of external growth may slow for a few quarters, the pace of internal growth will explode. And when the internal growth is strong, this team will be well poised to scale up to their 2025 goal and may even blow it out of the water a few years early.

Next Steps

Written by Michael Erath, Master Facilitator, Certified EOS Implementer™, Best-Selling Author and Founder of The Traction Hub

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Just Say “No” to Achieve Growth

Entrepreneurial Freedom, Traction

Have you ever said yes to something and then regretted the commitment you made? If so, you’re normal. Saying no is difficult for two primary reasons, which I will share below. But being able to say no is essential in creating the capacity to say yes to, and to be successful at, what is truly important.

Many of the organizations I work with struggle with this, especially when it comes to turning down orders that are simply not a good fit for them. One particular example is from a printing and large-format graphics organization I have been working with for more than 5 years now. The company’s owners started in their garage in 2004, and today have built the company into a successful $10+ million busines. But it wasn’t without some bumps along the way.

In the early days, they were taking every order that came their way. It was always about finding a way to get to yes—and in those early days, doing so was critical to their survival. By the time we started working together, they had invested in very expensive large-format printing equipment and were capable of taking on very large projects. But their ability to achieve growth had flatlined and they were stuck.

One of the early issues we recognized that was holding them back and causing frustrations was that they were still saying yes to every job that came their way. It was a habit based on what allowed them to survive when they were a startup. When we began to look at the kind of work that was a good fit for the current business, they began to recognize that much of the work they were saying yes to included jobs that were too small to efficiently utilize their newer, higher capacity production model. What was a fit for them in startup mode was no longer a fit.

The end result was that by saying yes to the small projects they had survived on in the early days, but which now created inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and frustrations, they were essentially saying no to doing more of the kind of work that was a right fit for them in their current stage. When they began to say no to the smaller orders that didn’t fit, they created more capacity to go after the big jobs that did. They became more efficient, more profitable, and their growth rate accelerated.

Why Is “No” So Difficult?

There are two primary reasons that we find it difficult to say no. It requires deliberate courage and it creates awkwardness. In his book Essentialism, author Greg McKeown explains these two reasons why we struggle to just say no.

Deliberate Courage

We often say yes to things in an effort to avoid conflict, avoid disappointing others, or to give in to pressure. It takes a clear understanding of what is important and why in order to develop the clarity to know when to say no. With clarity and focus on the important things you will have to say no to by saying yes in the moment to something minor, the courage to say no to the trivial, or less than important, becomes easier to find.

Social Awkwardness

We have a natural tendency as humans to conform to what people expect of us. Psychologists refer to this as normative conformity, or “the conformity that occurs because of the desire to be liked or accepted” Deutsche and Gerrard (1955).

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and it is up to us to determine how we choose to allocate them. Have you ever been invited to something by a group of peers and said yes, even though it forced you to give up something of more value that you needed to do? Have you been asked to do something by a boss or colleague even though you did not have the capacity to do it without dropping something else?

Saying no actually brings us physical and emotional discomfort in these situations. What we have to pause and remember before answering these requests is whether to politely say no, and regret it for a moment, or begrudgingly say yes and regret it for days, weeks, months, or years.

Next Steps to Achieve Growth

I want to challenge you, before the end of the day today, to set aside 15 quiet minutes alone to think about all the important things you are not able to focus on because of the things to which you should have said no. Make a list of the three to seven things that are most important to you. The next time somebody asks you to do something, pause and ask yourself, “Will this harm my capacity to focus on the important few things?” If yes, then smile, and give them a polite, “No.”

To learn more about how The TRACTION Hub can help you and your organization clarify, simplify, and achieve your vision, contact us.

 

Written by Michael Erath, Master Facilitator, Certified EOS Implementer™, Best-Selling Author and Founder of The Traction Hub

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