Too often at work as in life we bite off more than we can chew. We set grandiose goals for ourselves like the perennial New Year’s resolution of exercising regularly and quickly losing weight. I’m the first to admit my personal promise to lose 30 pounds in 30 days was a perfect example of failing fabulously. I could share with you a laundry list of reasons why it was unrealistic of me to achieve my goal, but at the center was my inability to hyper focus my challenge. It is often the same when setting workplace goals.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: By better serving the booming U.S. Hispanic population, key to the present and future growth of our business – we’ll increase out total market share by 45% (and you can fill in the blank with any pie-in-the-sky number).
I can see you rolling your eyes. I’ve heard this song so many times that it’s now just noise. There are so many problems with that statement beginning with the “fill-in-the-blank” which in my experience has been the equivalent of “lose 30 pounds in 30 days” scenario. The only sure results of these types of unrealistic stretch goals are stress and frustration. So, let’s go back to the genesis of the impediment: the challenge.
Stop authoring statements to neatly fit a presentation’s title or office lingo. The more detailed your goal is, the better your chances of achieving success. It will become the road map you and your colleagues will use to ask the right questions, evaluate progress and delegate responsibilities.
My New Year’s resolution catastrophe was in that I wanted to simplify what is in fact very complex. The chore of my goal really isn’t about losing 30 pounds in 30 days; it’s about changing my lifestyle. The positive product of changing my bad habits is certainly weight loss (among other benefits), but not necessarily the 30-for-30 slogan my ESPN induced mind conjured up.
So, here is the new challenge: I am going to lose weight by making healthy changes in my lifestyle. I will eat balanced meals regularly and exercise for at least an hour, three times a week. By being faithful to these adjustments in my daily routine, I estimate that I will lose 30 pounds in 4 months.
This challenge is one I can wrap my arms around versus the first Himalayan one I started the year with. Not only is it more realistic, but when I break it down by section the road map to success is laid out for me.
I am going to lose weight by making healthy changes in my lifestyle. That seems simple enough. On the surface the declaration is easy to understand: make changes in lifestyle = losing weight. But this statement needs more teeth. The key to success is in the details.
I will eat balanced meals regularly and exercise for at least an hour, three times a week. Here we go. Eat balanced and regularly…3 square meals a day. That might sound easy to some people, but for me – it is a major problem. I travel a lot and often find myself living in different time zones; three days at a time. And when I am not traveling, I’m buried in meetings after meetings which often result in skipping lunch or eating whatever is easiest to get my hands on.
Exercise three times a week for an hour. Who has time for that? The most exercise I do is sprinting between connecting flights at the airport.
This section of the challenge is key because it defines the how to do it. It is also often the place where goals die, but by aiming small you also miss small. I might fail to eat regularly each day or exercise 3 times a week for an hour, but even if I am successful half of the time – it is better than if I did not have such a structure. Also, by having realistic defined guidelines, I can quickly get back on track.
By being faithful to these adjustments in my daily routine, I estimate that I will lose 30 pounds in 4 months. In order for words to turn into actions, all challenges require metrics and time tables. 30 pounds in 4 months might sound a lot like my original 30-for-30, but it isn’t. On average a healthy goal of losing weight is 2 pounds per week. That’s certainly more realistic than the 7 pounds a week I had originally intended.
Let’s now apply the same concept to the reaching the U.S. Hispanic population challenge. Instead of penning a 140 character limiting slogan how about: ESPN will better serve U.S. Hispanic sports fans. The multicultural unit will identify, inform and educate ESPN sports coverage teams on opportunities to develop content which is relevant to this community. By participating in daily editorial meetings and working collaboratively across all platforms; 8 focused stories a month will be produced and showcased prominently.
Let’s lay it out: ESPN will better serve U.S. Hispanic sports fans. It’s a statement which is focused, but requires the how.
And here it is: The multicultural unit will identify, inform and educate ESPN sports coverage teams on opportunities to develop content which is relevant to this community. Identify, inform and educate create awareness, but we are still missing deliverables.
By participating in daily editorial meetings and working collaboratively across all platforms; 8 focused stories a month will be produced and showcased prominently. There you have it: 8 stories a month with the right visibility.
Aim small: better serve U.S. Hispanics by providing awareness in daily editorial meetings resulting in 8 focused stories a month.
Miss small: missing meetings which may result in fewer stories a month.
I’m not giving away ESPN’s secret recipe in reaching U.S. Hispanics. There are many ways to reach that goal or any goal for that matter. The intention of using this example is to provide insights on how to properly frame challenges in order to minimize the chances of failing and optimize the chances to succeed.
If you aim small, focus on what you can do based on the resources in front of you and provide a scheduled timetable in which to accomplish it, then you’ll miss small.
Expect to make mistakes along the way. The challenges which veered off, but got right back on track were the ones which had easy lane access.
By the way…3 weeks and 5 pounds. I’m not on course, but I’m also not completely lost.