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How many times have you set a goal, personally or professionally, and then felt frustrated when you weren’t able to reach it? Maybe you were really enthusiastic at the beginning, but you lost interest over time. Maybe the goal felt attainable when you set it, but then you just never seemed to get close to actually reaching it. 

If you’ve been struggling to reach your goals, chances are it’s because you’re skipping a very important step. Instead of starting the goal-setting process by looking forward to what you hope to reach, instead you need to start by looking back.

My coaching clients and I start our quarterly goal sessions with a thorough, all-day review. After all, you can’t choose where to go next if you haven’t stopped to look around and assess where you are now

This is the process we follow:

1: Highlights

Start by recording your wins for the prior quarter. No matter how bad you think the last three months were, there are always some wins to be recognized. This sets a positive tone and helps you focus on how to do more of what you and your business does best. Then identify a few key challenges and roadblocks that need to be addressed going forward. Finally, take a few minutes to note any important observations as these can be extremely valuable later in the process.

2: Financial Assessment

Start by looking at your numbers at a higher level than what you do every month, so you don’t get too caught in the weeds. Look at what IS, not what you think might be, using real numbers and real results. Look at sales, customers or clients, income, or whatever other financial metric you think would be valuable to track. Write down where you are for the previous quarter.

3: GEARS Assessment

My coaching clients use my free GEARS assessment to help them get focused on the most important aspects of their business every quarter. We examine goods & services, effective leadership, accountability, resources, and systems together. We also check in on sales and marketing during this time. (Want a free copy of my GEARS assessment to use in your own review? Click here!)

4: Personnel Assessment 

In your company, are the right people doing the right job in the right way with the right attitude? If not, then what needs to be fixed or changed? Do you need to let someone go, move someone, find someone new? This may be the most difficult part of the process, especially if you have worked with your people for any length of time, but it’s only through asking ourselves tough questions like these that we are able to move forward.

Time to review & assess.

Once you have completed an extensive review, it’s time to look at what you just outlined: what is your review telling you? Are there areas that stick out as being high-need scenarios? Is there anything that surprises you about the information you gathered? Where should you go next, based on what you’ve found?

Take stock:

  • Write down what you have done really well, that you want to continue into the next quarter.
  • Now note that area of the highest need for improvement.
  • Write down the area that you’re most enthusiastic about working on in the future.
  • Write down any big “emergency” problems that need your attention immediately.

Be honest with yourself at this stage, and use the real data from your review to help you take your notes. You’ll probably discover through this process that in some areas, you’re doing better than you thought you were. In others, there may be problems you weren’t aware of until you did this review. That’s why it’s so important to look at actual data and not base your goal-setting off assumptions or memory.