In my recent blog post, I discussed the importance of strong personal motivation as one of two fundamental elements in achieving New Year’s resolutions (and other important goals). The second critical element is personal capability. Strong motivation provides what to do; capability is how to do it. Capability further breaks down into four components: (1) identifying the essential actions that will lead to the achievement of goals, (2) having or developing the ability to perform those essential actions, (3) creating appropriate visual scorecards to track progress and (4) enlisting the support of one or more interested persons to provide agreed upon sustaining actions.
To achieve the first of these typically requires study and planning. If your goal is to lose weight, for instance, you probably want to study the various weight loss alternatives available to you. These might include ways to eat less or exercise more, special diets or even surgery. A choice will be made to pursue one or more of these options—and an action plan will be developed to implement that choice. Similarly, if a business wants to make more money, executives will examine the options for creating more revenue, increasing gross margins and/or reducing operating expenses. They will then choose their strategies and develop an action plan.
The second aspect of capability involves the personal or business competency to enact the plan successfully. The fact is this: if the competency required to achieve a goal is not one you possess—or can develop—you will fail. This is where you must frankly count the costs of your goals and resolutions. Do you possess the skills, aptitudes and resources that will be required to be successful? Skills and aptitudes are the abilities to perform the essential actions that will lead to success. Resources often include other people, time commitments, equipment and/or money. Both businesses and individuals need to carefully assess their capabilities to achieve their goals.
Once this assessment is complete, we often tend to immediately dive into action. However, this is generally premature unless we have taken the time to invest in two important insurance policies. The first of these is to create appropriate scorecards. The old maxim is absolutely true: that which is measured gets done! Scorecards should measure not only desired outcomes (such as “pounds lost” or “increase in profit dollars”), but also the essential actions that lead to those outcomes (“calories consumed” or “expense dollars saved”).
The second insurance policy is to engage one or more strong mentors, coaches—or as I like to call them, foot-burners, who will hold your feet to the fire. These people are responsible for sustaining actions; i.e., providing support and follow-up to assure that you stay on track in fulfilling the essential actions that will lead to your success. In a business context, these are often supervisors or bosses. This role has often been misunderstood or even entirely neglected in many organizations. When this is the case, company goals always suffer. Managers must recognize that their success relies heavily on how well they sustain the essential actions of their people. This is equally true of individuals and their resolutions. Where they are strongly sustained by friends and family, success is virtually assured. Where this is not the case, failure is rarely avoided.
If you sincerely desire to achieve success in your personal resolutions and/or business goals, recognize that strong motivation and willpower are not enough. You must have personal capability to initiate and sustain the essential actions that will lead to success. This includes clarity regarding essential actions, having the ability to perform those actions, measuring progress with appropriate visual scorecards and engaging supportive foot-burners who will sustain your progress.
Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 21 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching.