Depending which journal you read, the figures for individuals who stick to New Year Resolutions and who actually achieve their goal sits at just 7-10%.

Businesses sadly don’t appear to fare much better – with only 23% appearing to achieve their goals (or vision) – that is a failure rate of 77%!

As a transformation specialist I have long been intrigued by what makes some succeed where others fall by the wayside, particularly when so much is published and widely available on how to develop SMART goals and then implement a range of strategies to support these.

Looking back at my own successes and failures over the years and comparing these with research that eminent authors in the field of personal and business success such as Jack Canfield, Jim Collins, Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins have published; alongside studying autobiographical and biographical works from successful entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs it has become apparent that traditional models for goal setting are missing some key elements to guarantee success.

Below I have shared the key principles that I have learned, in a framework that combines traditional models with proven shared traits and practices that these and other highly successful individuals practice repeatedly in their personal and professional lives and which I have seen work when applied by businesses and individuals.


Step 1: Review goals from previous years: what worked? what didn’t work? why ? Using recognised root cause analysis models such as the 5 WHY’ or ‘Fishbone Diagram’ can be particularly helpful for getting to the real cause for lack of progress. In a personal context ‘fear’ can often be the root cause (fear of being judged; rejected etc) in a business context it can be as simple as poor communication of the goals throughout the business. The ‘greats’ mentioned above treat this exercise with relish and use the results to learn from the diagnosis – changing the things that didn’t work, whilst mirroring the things that did across other areas.


Step 2: Take time to take stock and appreciate everything you have and everything you have achieved. Even the simplest things as you look around your home or office are sources for gratitude – none more so than the people in your life. Rather than focus on the negatives and what we would like to change, relish the positives. After all – you married / employed / selected these people as friends / partners / colleagues. What were the attributes that attracted you in the first place? That printer in the corner may not be the latest model – but without it your business wouldn’t operate quite as smoothly. Feeling gratitude has remarkable effects on our psychology which in turn affects our attitudes and beliefs and determines our actions and hence our ability to achieve our goals.


Step 3: Consider who else may be affected by your goals. Change is required to achieve any goal. Is this change positive for you and those around you? If not, you may receive resistance. Where personal goals are concerned this should be easy to quantify and then qualify with those concerned. For business related goals however, change can be a big upheaval for people, so ensure you have the appetite for it and plan for it to happen effectively and sympathetically to the whole environment, otherwise your goals are likely to succumb to other pressures.


Step 4: Using the SMART formula (although you will note that the below is slightly adapted); write down your goals (or for a business – vision) for the forthcoming period. To quote Richard Branson ” The simple act of writing it down will help you stick to it.”

  • Be Specific: This means more than just stating you want to earn more or grow the business. This means getting a clear vision in your head of what that will mean to you. What will it look like and feel like; what will people (including you) be doing differently? If your salary increases by £10k per annum what difference will it make to you? Will you move to a new house? Dress more sharply? Be able to drive your dream car? If your business turnover doubles will you have new offices? Where will they be? What will they look like? What will your client list consist of? Will you diversify your offering? Research has proven, over and over, that the clearer you are in your mind what your life will look like and what the benefits will be the more likely you are to achieve your goals. Specifically, if you run a business you should be able to share this vision with your team and make it so compelling that they can also see the what your vision will mean for them. This is what drives momentum.
  • Make it Measurable: This means putting a figure on it, something tangible for you to benchmark, something for you to be able to say at the end – either yes I definitely achieved this OR no not yet. People – both personally and in business are often afraid of doing this as suddenly this makes them accountable and opens them up to the risk of being judged by others. But it is imperative – just as it is imperative to state your goal in the positive. So…rather than “I would like to lose 20 pounds” it should state your desired weight, or dress size or BMI. Likewise, in business your goal may be to grow the business to a £30m operation, but if your focus is solely on the GP (or vanity figure as an old boss of mine used to state) then growth may not be sustainable. A more grounded and measurable goal might be to increase turnover to £30m whilst maintaining EBIT at 25%.


  • Make it Achievable: This doesn’t though mean make it ‘easy’ which is how so many people read this. One of the common traits demonstrated by the above business gurus is that their goals are all Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals. However, what these successful people do very well is chunk these down into achievable step goals. They work backwards from the dream and the date set and then look at what they need to do, ‘Step by Step’ to get them closer to their goals. They look at what resources they might need at each step of the way and plan these in. They assign tasks as appropriate. Businesses recognise this as strategy, on a personal level this is also beneficial as it takes away excuses. To reach that goal weight you may need to plan in a personal trainer or order a book on nutritious food or schedule a Doctors check-up and you will certainly want family or friends to call you out if you are tempted to go off course.


  • Make it Relevant: (note the replacement of realistic here – after all realistic is such a subjective word. Was it realistic for man to run a mile under 4 minutes? Not until Roger Bannister achieved it. Then, suddenly athlete after athlete believed it to be a realistic target and made breakthrough runs with the current record standing at 3 minutes 43 seconds.) So back to relevant. Your team may be able to produce amazing events that UHNW individuals would pay highly for, but if your company is a B2B that is not expanding into the consumer and leisure market, then the goal wouldn’t be relevant. Likewise learning to speak Spanish when you are unlikely to have the opportunity to use it for either business or pleasure carries less relevance than if you need it for your job or you regularly visit one of the Costa’s for your holidays.


  • Give it a Target Date: with similar target dates for each of your chunked down sub goals. And then diarise these and, using the PDCA cycle, fully review your effectiveness and success at each stage of review. By doing so you are much more likely to remain focussed and make the changes needed to keep you on track as you go along. Remember if what you are doing isn’t working then change what you are doing.

Step 5: Take action! Many of us (me included) spend so much time preparing, researching and planning to ensure that ‘it’ (our action step) is ‘perfect’ that we forget to take action, or worse, by delaying action we lose opportunities or momentum in the meantime. Successful people learn and grow as a result of their actions – if they have an idea they act on it immediately; if something doesn’t work or isn’t ‘perfect’ they quickly learn from it, adapt their actions and move on. Successful people don’t define themselves or their abilities by others perception of ‘perfect’. They recognise ‘perfect right now’.


Step 6: Find someone or a group of people who have already achieved your goal. Can you mirror how they act and what they do? Can you find a mentor or coach who can guide you? Perhaps join or set up a ‘Mastermind’ networking group of peers who have either achieved what you want to achieve or who are on the same journey and who can share advice and tips based on their experiences.


Step 7: Never give up. There are many stories of #1 Best Selling books that were previously rejected by hundreds of publishers; many entrepreneurs who were sacked from previous jobs; accomplished musicians who were told there would never make anything of their lives. Successful people just see these as opportunities to find ‘another way’.

Here’s to a successful 2018 one and all!

For more information on my services and to learn how I can support your business in achieving its goals or in maximising your own growth potential, I would love to hear from you at [email protected]

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