I’m sure we’ve all read studies that show fewer than 10 percent of the population sets goals, less than half of these people achieve their goals, and yet everyone believes goal setting is very important. So, why do we all agree having goals is important yet more than 90 percent of us don’t set them? A quick Google search shows there are generally four main reasons why people don’t set goals: they’re not aware of the importance, they don’t know how, they‘re afraid of failure, and they’re afraid of accountability or humiliation.

Do you believe that? Are goals really so complicated and intimidating that nine out of 10 of us simply avoid the entire process? After spending years working with service managers and leaders, I believe most of us never really learned how to properly use goals, yet we found ways to get things done, so we came to the conclusion that having formal goals isn’t that important to success. The reality is, goals are extremely important to having intentional or planned success (as opposed to accidental success coming from shear effort) and really aren’t that complicated.


So, let’s see if we can demystify this incredibly important yet rarely used concept of goals and get on the path to becoming a better service manager and leader.

Most service managers are mechanically inclined, so let’s look at goals from this perspective. In a gas furnace, we must have three things for combustion to occur: a fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. With the proper fuel/oxygen mixture, an adequate spark, and, in the proper sequence, gas will ignite. If we leave any of these out or they are out of sequence, we’ll have a failure. These are the mechanics of combustion.

If we think of goals in this way, what are the mechanics of a “winnable” goal? A winnable goal must include all of the following:

1. Something you are trying to do or achieve — This doesn’t need to be anything spectacular or grandiose, it’s just something you want to do or achieve.

2. Be specific and include an ending target — For example, a goal of improving your service agreement retention rate by 10 points would be incorrectly stated as “We’re going to improve our retention rate by 10 points,” and correctly stated as, “We will increase our service agreement retention rate to 90 percent.” This nuance may be subtle, yet it’s very important to crystallize the goal.

3. Keep track of your progress — If we simply say we’re going to improve our service agreement retention rate, we’ll have a tough time measuring our success and sharing progress. However, if we say, “We’re going to improve our service agreement retention rate from 80 percent to 90 percent,” we can easily measure progress and share results with our team using visual aids such as graphs or charts. Things that get measured get done; things that don’t get measured don’t get done. It’s that simple.

4. Set a specific completion date — Without a completion date, we’ve set more of a hope or dream than a goal.

5. Goals must be realistic and achievable — If we’ve been consistently running an 80 percent retention rate on our service agreements for the past five years, it may not be realistic to set 90 percent as a goal to achieve in six months; however, a completion date 12 months out may be appropriate. You have to believe in the goal.

6. Go all in — If you, as the leader, believe in and are 100 percent committed to the goal, but key members on the team aren’t committed or don’t agree, you’ll have a very low probability of success.

7. Document and share the goal with at least one other person. This is critical; however, it’s usually overlooked or intentionally ignored because we don’t realize its importance. Documenting and sharing our goal openly makes us accountable to ourselves and others for its success.

While there may be slight variations, these are the mechanics of a winnable goal: it is clear, easy to understand, has a starting point, an ending point, a completion date, is realistic and achievable, mutually agreed upon, committed to, has been shared with others, and is in writing. A well-written winnable goal begs you to take action, plan a strategy, engage your team, measure progress, share results, and celebrate its achievement.

In closing, I want to share a statement I learned about 15 years ago regarding goals. “Is what I’m doing right now moving me closer to or further away from my goals?”

What a simple yet great question to ask ourselves each day. If you have a goal, you can answer; if you don’t have a goal, you can’t. I still keep a printout of this quote on my office wall. Best of luck with taking the first step by creating your winnable goals.

Publication date: 5/16/2016

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