Stop Wigging Out

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Too Many Small Business Goals?
You’re completely dedicated to making the vision you have for your small business a reality yet somehow find yourself unable to execute important goals.

Perhaps the biggest mistake small business owners make when putting their plans into action is to attempt to achieve too many goals at once. But don’t feel bad, as authors Chris McChesney, Sean Covey (yes, son of Stephen Covey), and Jim Juling in their book The 4 Disciplines of Execution point out, CEOs and other corporate top officers make this same mistake – and get the same results.

What are the results when trying to execute too many goals? Instead of executing tactics that meet the objectives dictated by well thought out strategies to achieve that plethora of goals – too often you end up running in circles chasing your own tail when your plan was to move forward.

The Wind Chill Factor

Dedicated small business owners don’t fail to achieve their goals for lack of trying. According to a Manta survey most respondents (two-thirds) work more than 40 hours per week and 10% (that’s one out of every ten small business owners) reported that the average number of hours they worked per week was 70+.

If you’re reading this article we know you’re in the ranks of business owners ready to do whatever you need to do to make it work and very likely in the ranks of the one out of ten who are putting in those 70+ hours.

Seventy hours per week is a lot of hours; heck 50 hours per work week means you’re actively working 10 hours per day. If you figure it takes you 30 minutes before you hit the front door in the morning and add a 30 minute commute you’re dedicating 11.5 of the 16 waking hours of your day to your business. And, if you’re putting that 70 hours per work week that translates into working 15.5 hours of the 16 hours you’ve got your eyes open. And let’s not forget that “average” means 50% of those who stated they are working 70+ hours are actually putting in even more hours.

So, if you’re working all those hours, how is it that you’re not meeting your goals?

According to McChesney, Covey, and Juling the challenge isn’t limited to trying to achieve too many goals at one time – the “real enemy of execution is your day job” what they call the “whirlwind.” Your day job consists of all those things that need to get done on a regular basis in order to keep your doors open – as well as the challenges that pop up on a regular basis that get in the way of your day-to-day operations. McChesney et al caution that “The whirlwind robs from you the focus required to move your team forward.”

How does your whirlwind commit that crime? Essentially you make it easy to get robbed as you leave the door open by not separating whirlwind goals from strategic goals. Additionally, when challenges get in the way of executing the whirlwind, this creates urgent situations that act as obstacles to achieving important goals – and we all know “when urgency and importance clash, urgency will win every time.”

Less is More

When those urgent situations and challenges crop up in the course of performing your “day job” (and, like death and taxes, you can be certain they always will) it’s pretty easy to start going downhill from there. First, you might try putting in even more hours in order to achieve multiple goals, but it won’t take long for you to become stressed which can then, to use the vernacular, lead to “totally wigging out” when you aren’t able to achieve those goals. It is at this point that non-productive, frustrating tail chasing begins with chaos not far behind – which certainly wasn’t your plan.

The problem with setting too many goals is that they usually result in giving birth to even more goals “as they work their way down throughout the organization, creating a web of complexity.” Add being robbed of the focus you need to achieve all those goals and it is easy to see how attempting to execute too many goals “makes success almost impossible.”

WIG versus Wigging Out

For the small business owner, we don’t limit the risk of trying to executive too many goals to making it almost impossible to achieve just those goals, but will go so far as to say a small business owner following that path can put their very business at risk to fail. You can only do so much and when owners (and their employees) can’t “easily distinguish between what is truly a top priority and what is the whirlwind” that lack of focus can lead to mistakes and a lack of oversight that places a small business in very real jeopardy.

However, the ability to achieve your goals doesn’t rest on fate. As a business owner, you are the master of your own fate – and you can master that fate by doing less rather than more.

The first step to achieving important goals is to prioritize those goals and then identify no more than one or two goals that are not just important, but extremely important to execute at any one time. These are what McChesney and his co-authors call a “Wildly Import Goal” or WIG. When you use this approach you move from tail chasing to effectively executing “a small set of achievable targets.” Once you’ve met those targets, you repeat the process.

This serial approach to executing one or two WIGs is a strategy for achieving goals while retaining focus. Identifying one or two WIGS sets you up to succeed instead of losing focus and “wigging out” and is one the “four disciplines”(for a discussion of the full four see the article The Discipline of Success) McChesney and cohorts identify in their book as disciplines that allow you to focus on your day job as well as execute your plan.

Achieving “wildly important goals” is, of course, the result every small business owner desires and is willing to work all those hours to achieve. Knowing “doing less” at any one time achieves more in the long run not only vastly increases your opportunity to succeed – you may be able to cut your hours as well.

Last modified: March 1, 2013
Annie Kile


This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

Category: Insider's perspective, MPR Authored, Small Business, Small Business Corner, small business owners, strategies, tips

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