Goal setting and accountability are two halves of the same coin—they are inexorably linked, and you can’t have one without the other. It’s never enough to simply decide on a goal; you must hold yourself accountable to satisfy that goal.
Don’t accept a half-assed result. It’s human nature to want to be gentle on ourselves. The world is hard on us, so we should be easier on ourselves, right?
Wait—did that sound harsh? It’s just that most default to trying to cut themselves a break, but you’re never going to advance if you allow yourself to slide. Meet your metrics. The ability to drive yourself past your comfort zone is the difference between a person who can run incredibly fast and an Olympic athlete. Fast-twitch muscle and genetics account for only so much.
Do you want the win or not?
In my early entrepreneur days, I realized that we had to manage the business by the numbers and results. My rationale was that if we were working for someone else, they’d have set goals and we’d have been obligated to achieve them. So, it made sense for us to do this for ourselves. I knew that if we ever wanted to be a name in the language solutions space, we had to beat our numbers.
This is where personal grit comes into play.
It wasn’t easy forcing myself to make the hundreds of cold calls, and sign letters until I was sure my hand would stay fashioned into a claw forever, but it was necessary to do so every day. To get through, I broke down each goal into the smallest achievable piece. Staring down a daily goal of, say, 500 calls, I’d tell myself, “Once I make 25 more calls, I can have a cup of coffee.” Maybe 50 calls after that, I’d reward myself with a brisk walk. And 100 calls after that, perhaps a chocolate chip cookie. Hot beverages and fresh air were not great shakes, as they’re something almost everyone experiences every day in a first-world society. No one looks at these necessities as rewards, but they were the only compensation we could afford.
Initially, I tried to keep up my social life with friends outside the company, but I couldn’t do it. I quickly learned that I couldn’t have it all—at least not at the same time. I was young and I wanted to have fun, with a vibrant, active social schedule, but that desire would have diluted the goal to create that dream organization. I had to choose. Fortunately, given our growth, we eventually filled our social needs within the company.
I’m grateful to have had enough of an inferiority complex that I was determined to prove everyone wrong, because my business school peers saw my quitting my previous job as shocking. I can’t say I had no other choice for what I’d do with my life, because I had the privilege of both a college degree and an MBA. My education was my safety net, as was my family. Regardless, I felt and acted as though it were TransPerfect or bust, as I was so motivated by my fear of failure.
After a few years, we set the goal of opening one new office each quarter. This is how the company grew to having offices in more than 100 cities—we set the goals and the deadline and we opened a new office in a new city. We’d hire one person to run that office, and once they hit their revenue goals, which was a consistent number across the board, they were allowed to hire a second person, and so on.]
I had the pleasure of having sales trainer extraordinaire Jack Daly as a mentor. One of the most important things he taught me and our team was to write down our goals and then share them with people. His philosophy was that it wasn’t enough to have self-accountability; he believed in being accountable to those in our personal lives, too.
I believe that the setting and doing are 95 percent of the equation, because if you don’t set the goal, it doesn’t get met. The saying it out loud part is only a tiny piece for me personally, but Jack used to tell me, “If it doesn’t get shared, it doesn’t get done.” My philosophy was also based on what Jamie Wengroff, one of my first and favorite employees, used to say. His refrain was, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
In the beginning, I looked at my list of goals as mine and mine alone, but as the company grew and we began to hire salespeople, we were all about sharing those goals with each other.
In the Observer, Thomas Oppong writes, “The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. And if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%.”
What’s especially useful is that Jack’s advice can apply to all aspects of life, and not just business. That’s why I apply this in my life now to keep myself on track. As an example, let’s say you’re serious about improving your health and you believe the best way to get there is walking five miles a day. By sharing this goal with your friends and family, you not only set up a system of checks and balances, but you’re also likely to find yourself in the company of loved ones who want to join you on those walks. Even if they don’t accompany you, they’re participating in achieving your goal with every fitness tracker and squashy-sole sneaker they recommend.
Excerpted from Dream Big and Win: Translating Passion into Purpose and Creating a Billion-Dollar Business by Liz Elting, Published by Wiley, September 26, 2023