As the year comes to a close, businesses will take time to review the goals set the previous year and analyze how they fared. They will have the opportunity to look back on the past 12 months to celebrate their greatest achievements. And while taking an inventory of what went right this year is important for office morale, it’s also imperative to appreciate the full weight of what went wrong. As leaders, when we fall short of what we set out to accomplish, it can be demoralizing for our teams. But if you embrace the opportunity failure offers, it could be the catalyst you need to reevaluate success and push toward future goals.
Learning from Failure
Learning and growing from failure can be a success in itself. By analyzing where your company fell short in specific areas, you can begin to dive into the nitty gritty of the shortcoming. When analyzing a missed quota, unfulfilled plan, or just a plain mistake, ask these questions:
- How far away were we from reaching the goal?
- What are the factors that held us back?
- Did we have all the information needed to create the right goal?
- Was the goal reachable / was it the right goal?
Answering these questions will help start the journey into learning from past failures and reevaluating success within your company.
Embracing the Baseline
To create focused goals, it’s important to look at the past to determine where you want to go in the future. Understanding a baseline of performance is fundamental to strive for growth and production. Regardless whether you reached your goal or not, you now have 12 months of data to help your company build a baseline. Some companies create recurring annual goals that simply change in percentage (e.g. in year one, increase customer satisfaction to 90%. In year two, increase to 93%, etc.) Baselines are great for goals like these because you can see if your actions affected the goal, as well as how to measure specific data points within the goal. Embrace your baseline and look toward the future.
Being Held Back
Whenever you set out to accomplish something that others either can’t or aren’t willing to strive for, there will be obstacles that hinder your path to success. These factors that hold us back from achieving success can blindside us or they can be calculated variables we plan for. Once you see that a goal won’t be met, meet with your team to find out why the organization fell short. Examine all factors that are known (e.g. market demand, economic conditions, etc.) and look into the factors that blindsided your company this year. While there are several factors we can’t control, there are those we can begin to look out for in the future and plan to either avoid or overcome in the new year. Take a hard look at your goals and answer the difficult question: why did we fall short? Being honest with the “why” will help you achieve the “what” moving forward.
Obtaining the Right Information
When betting on yourself, it’s nice to have all the cards. When you know all the information, it’s not a gamble, it’s a calculated risk and reward scenario. When creating annual goals, follow a structured and calculated formula. One of these, and the most popular goal-setting formula is the S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Some aspects of this formula require specific information to fully flesh out a goal. Knowing where you have been, where you are, and where you want to go can help when creating these types of goals. Understanding your baseline will help answer some of these; however, gathering all the data, information, and organizational desires will also help exponentially. If your company failed to reach a desired outcome, determine whether you had all the cards when making the goal in the first place. If not, make it a priority for future goals.
Creating the Right Goal
Finally, the most important question to ask yourself is simple: was the goal achievable in the first place? Was it even the right goal for our company at the time? Not all goals are created equal, and though it is important to be aggressively optimistic and strive for greatness, it’s OK to accept the fact that a specific goal isn’t right for your organization at this time. The factors, obstacles, data points, and baseline all work together to determine how much energy and talent it will take to reach a certain level of success. If these elements make it unrealistic to fulfill a plan, then it wasn’t the right plan for your organization in the first place. Creating the perfect goal for your team means having something that will push your team, rallying them toward a finish line that they can strive to cross, while also putting plans in place to finish the race strong. If this isn’t possible, it may not be the right goal for your team.
While some believe success is black and white, and is measured in wins and losses, it’s important to understand that you can find ways to reevaluate by learning from your failures and putting plans in place to pursue excellence in the future. If you didn’t get where you wanted to go this year, remember, there’s always next year. And if you learn from what went wrong, you can strive for success in the future.
What do you do when an annual goal isn’t met? How do you ensure your team makes the necessary adjustments to strive for future success? Let us know in the comments section below!