If you made a New Year's resolution this week, you join 44 percent of Americans who did the same this year, according to a poll released by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.
New Year's resolutions involve setting goals for the year - often personal ones that may involve shedding a few pounds or eating healthier.
But this week is the perfect time of year to also set professional goals, whether it's as an entire staff, department or for an individual employee, experts say.
Create a strategy
When Kevin Kaiser began working with J&D’s Creative Colors in 2010, the repair and restoration business had been hit drastically by the recession.
The Northwest Indiana business lost several customers because many of its own clients lost their businesses.
“At our worst point during the recession, our sales were down over 50 percent from their high in 2006,” he said.
The company had a fleet of vehicles that were aged and in drastic need of mechanical repairs, with some even needing new graphics.
It was a situation that looked bleak.
Kaiser knew the only way out was to set a rebuilding timeline filled with goals – for both himself and the company as a whole.
“We started small with our sales goals and set a specific amount that we wanted to achieve daily with our technicians,” he said. “When they would hit that number, we would raise it a little for the next week until we had them busy enough that it wasn’t practical for them to increase sales anymore.”
Once the company got to that point, it was time to hire a new technician using the same strategy.
“This approach has allowed us to hire five additional technicians since January of 2011,” Kaiser said.
It’s a strategy that can be used for any goal setter – figure out the end result that’s desired and lay out a plan to achieve it, no matter if it’s an individual, municipality or business setting the goals.
Sandra Basala, superintendent of visitor services with Lake County Parks, said she and her staff members all set goals for the coming year based on a master plan updated every five years and checklists they create for each program presented to the public.
“By preparing our checklists well in advance, everyone connected in developing and presenting programs knows what is expected of them,” she said. “It’s also a way to keep up to date on the process and hopefully catch things that may fall between the cracks early enough to correct them.”
It’s already nearly a week into the year and you haven’t created goals yet. Basala said not to worry.
Creating a plan for your New Year’s resolutions doesn’t have to be completed on Jan. 1 and finalized on day one. Goals often are modified throughout the process, and the process by which you fulfill that goal can be flexible, Basala said.
“Since the task is initially a tedious one, many people are put off by creating them, but it doesn’t take long for everyone to jump on board once they realize the value of having a flexible plan,” she said.
Sometimes that path to achieving a goal may involve setting smaller, individual goals in the process, said Terrence Quinn, senior vice president of Peoples Bank in Munster.
At the bank, he encourages all employees to define their own career path – often becoming familiar with many positions and specialties available to them.
“They learn what credentials, skills and additional education will be needed in order to achieve their goals,” he said.
The company’s annual evaluation process addresses where employees are along their career path journeys and the various steps they will need to take to get to the next level, he said.
Focus on the effort
For Quinn, placing more emphasis on the effort than the results is the key to success.
He often refers to former Notre Dame head football coach Ara Parseghian’s three keys to success - Give 100 percent, do it honestly, and do it with class.
“Anything less than 100 percent effort means you have not achieved all that you could have,” Quinn said. “And if you do not do so honestly, then you have not achieved anything at all.”
He advises to always try to maintain a proper attitude and demeanor – essentially, to be a class act, he said.
“I have tried to set and measure both my personal and professional goals according to these standards,” Quinn said. “In the long term, it is more important how you have achieved rather than what you have achieved.”
For Kaiser, now president of J&D’s Creative Colors, setting goals is something every employee should do regularly.
“If you are not setting goals on a regular basis, you can easily lose focus of what you are working toward,” he said.
Just as essential, he said, is creating a plan on how to succeed.
“Having a roadmap is very important, because it’s one thing to say ‘I want to achieve a specific goal,’” Kaiser said. “It’s another thing to say ‘Here’s how I’m going to do it.’”