Here are two stories, set down side by side. One is about tackling a mountain; the other, tackling a mission—quite possibly your next mission. And while the stories are much different, the six steps taken to achieve both of them are remarkably similar.
Pick a Goal
For several years I have been thinking about this mountain across the valley from us. I had hiked it several times from a trailhead on the backside of the mountain. But I wanted to hike it from our side, where there is no trail.
When you are thinking of starting a business or preparing a business plan for the coming year, the first thing you need to do is to pick a goal and clearly define it. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to achieve what you aim for.
Be Realistic and Be Challenged
Because it lacked a trail, I knew the hike would start at the side of a road and end up at the top but not much else. To get a better idea of what the optimal route might be, I periodically would scout the roads closest to what could be a starting point. I also looked at a topographic map of the area and a Google Earth view.
After you have clarified your goal work on figuring out how you are going to accomplish it. Do whatever research is required to be able to support your goal. After all, what hangs in the balance is the success or failure of your business, with all the attending consequences.
Share Your Goal
Over the years I would share my goal of making the hike with people who I thought would be intrigued by the idea. In our town there are a number of people who do outdoor activities that amaze me. By talking with some of these folks, I got insights into what I might encounter and support for my goal.
Suppose you are running your business and you want to get clear about what you want it to accomplish in the next year. Talk to your employees and get their perspective. By asking for their input you are likely to find them more supportive of whatever you come up with. Talking with successful business people you respect will also help you craft a goal and strategies that are likely to become reality.
Build Your Team
I had to find at least one person who would accompany me, as it would be foolish to try this hike on my own. I also needed to figure out who would drop us off at the start of the hike and meet us later at the trailhead on the other side of the mountain. I ended up with a hiking partner who was in great shape (better than me!) and a driver who, like my hiking partner, has run ultra-marathons. Our driver would have done the hike except he had a calf injury which he did not want to aggravate. He said he would get enjoyment simply from helping us do the hike.
Jim Collins’ book Good to Great talks about getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats on the bus. Finding good employees, leading them, and helping them feel successful in what they do for you and your company is one of the most difficult aspects of running a business. It takes time and hard work to pull a good team together and to keep them on point. Don’t be impatient. Keep trying and learn from your mistakes while keeping that big goal, the point of your business plan, in mind.
Go For It
Finally, the agreed-upon day arrived. Our driver dropped off me and my hiking partner at the starting point we had picked. (Prior to the hike, our driver had been scouting options, as he was so into the whole idea of the hike!) Then came five hours of tough hiking, a lot of it on very steep grades and through densely packed vegetation with course modifications happening often. But at last we reached the top.
Once you and team own the goal(s) for your company for the year, it’s time to go for it. All the little decisions that get made throughout each work day are made with the goal in mind. By staying focused on the destination, you are likely to get there or at least very close.
I called our driver from the top of the mountain. We walked down the trail on the back side, where our driver met us at the trailhead. Before we had left my house I had put in his car an ice chest with several containers of coconut water, as I knew we would be dehydrated at the end of the hike. Our driver also brought along some ginger beer. My two friends and I sat for a bit talking and telling tales about the hike. This continued during the ride back to town. As we drove down the mountain I kept on looking back at it, as I was amazed to finally be reflecting on having accomplished the goal instead of hoping I could.
Over the course of your business year, share appropriate information with your team about the company’s progress towards your goal. When a milestone is met have a simple celebration. You and your team become stronger when you talk about how you worked together to achieve each small success.
A clearly crafted goal can make the impossible happen. The absence of one usually involves a lot of energy being wasted. No business or personal endeavor goes far without clear goals.
Dream your dreams. Share them. Find supporters. Doing so makes life and business very satisfying and inspiring!