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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • October 24, 2008
  • minute read

Setting Attainable Goals in a 'Down' Economy 

We all know that the economy is currently in a bad way. How, as a business leaders or manager, can you set attainable, realistic goals in a down market – without demoralizing your team?In recent months, one of the most common questions I’ve been asked by my clients is “How can we set attainable goals in this ‘down’ economy?”

The truth is, I don’t think the economic cycle makes any difference in setting realistic goals. – the core principles remain the same:

1. Hire people who have a track record in achieving their goals.

It may seem inappropriate – or downright weird – to be talking about hiring in the current climate. But you’ve hired before, and you’ll hire again. Through seven recessions, I’ve seen organizations again and again miss the single biggest opportunity inherent in any downturn – the opportunity to rebuild your team stronger than it ever was before.

Perennial under-achievers don’t change – as you start rebuilding, hire people you can trust will always give their best and who have a demonstrable track record of consistent goal achievement.

2. Set goals early, then revise the goals regularly in the light of hard data on actual performance.

Setting goals as a fixed line in the sand, then ‘turning up the volume’ in an attempt to magically cause your sales people to deliver those goals is a road to nowhere. Stubborn refusal to revise goals -worse, a belief that revising goals is weakness, is simply airheaded. [See recent developments in the financial markets for examples.]

Sales goals should be reviewed monthly and reviewed (up or down) in the light of whatever new information you have.

3. Use data for 70% of the goal-setting process, intuition/judgement 30%

You need data more than you think. Learn what your industry trends are, poll colleagues and peers for their experiences. Ask your managers and your team members for their input. Goal-setting done in a vacuum – with just you, a spreadsheet and a magic eight-ball isn’t going to cut it this year (or any year – but you’ll feel way dumber doing it this year).

Your team members need your judgement more than you think. That’s what you’re there for – to use your expertise and experience to bring some sense to that data and reach attainable conclusions. That’s why you get the big bucks.

4. Build goals from the bottom up, not the top down.

The people on the front line know more than anyone what is achievable. If you think you can’t trust them, or that they’ll sandbag you, go back to point 1.

5. Reward success, penalize failure.

Too many compensation schemes favor the first and under-play the latter. There should be consequences for sloppy forecasting – being over-optimistic just to please the manager is a terrible drain an organization’s success, so put penalties in place as well as rewards.

Learn more in this month’s free teleclass: Managing in a Recession

I’ll be expanding on these and many other points in this month’s free TeleClass: Managing in a Recession.

Click here to register – even if you can’t make the date, we’ll send you a link afterwards to listen to a recording of the class.



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