The first month of the year is winding down. If you have not done so already, it is time to be finalizing your success plan for 2021.
I know you’re trying to catch your breath from 4th quarter, and I know how out-of-control 2020 felt for many of you. These are the very reasons a 2021 plan is critical. We all need to plan for what we will do to make this year less exhausting, more controlled, and more productive.
I have some ideas
I do not profess to be the end-all, be-all guru on the topic. Like you, I sometimes struggle with planning. However, I also committed a long time ago to building out an annual plan. It has led to many personal successes. Of course, the details vary year to year, but my plan always centers on goals that drive 1) my firm’s objectives and 2) my personal objectives.
Back to 2020, how did that go for you? Did you accomplish what you planned? Why? Why not?
Of course, you had to have actual goals and a supporting plan in place to even be in a position to answer these questions. Or did you simply take a “pin the tail on the donkey” approach?
Find the right tools
Planning can be intimidating and a bit mysterious. I get it. But it does not need to be. There are so many planning tools available to make the process manageable.
If you haven’t been to the Q4i website before, go wander around (or wait until the end of this article for additional links). We provide several planning tools we have built with you in mind. Whether using our planning tools or someone else’s, just find something you like and get started.
In the end, the tool you use is not as important as what is in it. Or to say it another way, the best tool to use is the one you will actually use. Being a person who still uses pencils and paper for most everything, I know what I am talking about here.
Keep it simple
I am into the “less is more” mode these days. In business, over-complicating matters leads to missed opportunities. As the saying goes, “I want to know what time it is, not how the watch works.”
To that point, I subscribed to a concept built around the “The Four Disciplines of Execution.”
- Set your Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)
- Determine lead and lag measurements
- Keep a meaningful scoreboard
- Create a cadence of accountability
1. WIGs (Wildly Important Goals)
There is no rational reason not to set a WIG. However, it is important to remember, the “I” stands for Important, not Impossible. Make sure your WIGs are challenging but within reach.
“Important” means it is vital to your success, regardless of your role (owner, producer, account manager, janitor, or whatever) in the agency. You only want to establish one or two WIGs, the big ones that set the tone for everything else.
Focusing on more than a couple of WIGs becomes distracting and impedes your ability to do what is needed. Again, less is more. It ensures your efforts are honed-in where they are most needed. To be fair, each WIG will also have supporting goals to help get the big job done.
An example of an effective WIG statement, “I will move from X to Y and be there by DATE.” This is where the rubber hits the road and creates accountability for successful WIG execution.
2. Lead and lag measurements
The second step is determining lead (what will happen – what you can still control) and lag (what did happen – and what you have no control to change) measurements. Too often, we focus only on lag measurements, such as producing $100,000 of new business.
Yes, this example meets the “important” aspect of a WIG, and it is a concrete lag measure. However, it’s not enough by itself. It does nothing to identify how you will actually make it happen. For that, your primary focus must be on the daily and weekly activities necessary to make it happen, the lead measurements.
Ultimately, have little control over the final number. Unless you are writing the check yourself or “holding a gun to someone’s head,” you do not directly control the outcome. Sure, you have influence, but not absolute control.
What you can control are the behaviors that allow you the opportunities to exert your influence. For example, commit to making X number of dials per week, knocks on a door, email sends, or LinkedIn invitations sent. These outreach numbers aren’t your ultimate definition of success, but they lead you there.
Those dials will result in appointments, which are necessary to create the sales. You can control the dials, so “dials” become a useful lead measurement.
3. Keeping score
The third step is tracking success by way of a meaningful scoreboard. Don’t get hung up on what you use to keep score. Some choose to use platforms such as HubSpot, while others may simply use a whiteboard or even a tick sheet. In the end, the scoreboard just doesn’t matter that much.
What is important is that you keep score and do so consistently. Admittedly, lag and lead measurements are all important, but the day-to-day activities that support the lead measurements are the greatest key to success.
What makes a focus on the lead measures so crucial is they allow you to make the necessary adjustments. Let me give you an example.
Assume you have determined, based on experience, that it takes ten dials to get three appointments to make one sale. Of those three measures, only the ten dials are a lead measurement – the only element you control. Your performance influences the appointments and the sale, but many other factors will influence them as well.
By focusing on the lead measurement within your control, adjustments become easy. If you take a week off to vacation with your family, you need to make up the dials to hit your goals. Simple math says that next week you need to increase the number of dials to 20 to get back on track.
The ratios of selling change over time. Sometimes that works in your favor. If you become more effective during your appointments, you may only need 1.8 appointments to close a deal.
Then again, sometimes changing ratios works against you. Because it’s harder than ever to get someone on the phone, it may now take 20 dials to get the three appointments.
If you were only paying attention to lag measurements, you wouldn’t recognize the need for adjustments until it is too late. But, by watching the lead indicators, you are able to prevent the kneejerk reaction of adjusting your lag measurements or WIGs. Instead, you put yourself in a position to make timely, effective, and inevitable adjustments.
Finally, you must make yourself accountable to someone for following your plan and achieving your WIGs. Embracing accountability doesn’t mean you are insecure or not capable; quite the opposite. It means you are fully committed and realistic.
Whether it is an athlete at the top of their game or the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, the highest performers in every field have someone with whom they share their goals and depend on to keep them accountable.
Top performers achieve that level because they understand one thing: we are all human, we become distracted, and we all need someone to partner with to ensure we get the job done. Call them your butt-kicker, call them your cheerleader, call them what you want; just call them regularly.
Frequency of check-ins is huge. It forces you to reflect on what is working and where your areas of potential improvement exist. Back to my earlier analogy, you can blindly wander through the year playing “pin the tail on the donkey” with your success. Or you can do what all high performers do and decide to go into your year with a well thought out plan and a coach alongside you to help ensure it all comes together.
And feel free to reach out if you have any questions!
Photo by blocberry.