Setting goals and objectives is incredibly important when you run a small business. Not only has goal setting been shown to result in actionable behavior that aligns focus and sustains momentum, the bottom line is that you can’t improve what you don’t manage and measure. Rather than allowing outsized goals to overwhelm you however, the trick is to approach progress as a daily event. And that’s why small wins play a key role in achieving your business objectives.
Turning Big Goals into Little Victories
There’s no question that reaching major milestones - like landing your first repeat client or turning a profit consistently, for example - is important for business success. But the reality is that it’s the little steps leading up to those larger objectives that occupy most of our day to day work lives.
Understanding that can make an enormous difference when it comes to helping your team (and yourself) rack up the small wins that eventually bring about the grand slams.
Not only does making - and acknowledging - progress on a daily basis pave the way to more weighty accomplishments, when that progress involves meaningful work, it gives our motivation an ongoing boost.
Psychologist and Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile authored a book some years back about her research into what she calls the Progress Principle. In it, she describes how critical it is for people working on complex problems to realize small wins on a regular basis.
According to Amabile, making consistent headway – no matter how minor - on professional projects we consider important:
- promotes a positive inner work life,
- increases our creativity, productivity, and commitment to work over the long term, and
- encourages a more community-driven mindset among coworkers
Work is extremely important to most people. In fact, it goes beyond just being about business and crosses over into a personal sense of contribution and success.
So when we consider this notion alongside research that shows people are more willing to invest in what they view as an actual goal (rather than just a means to a goal), we begin to see how turning the daily work process into a series of small victories can help your business achieve grand objectives more readily.
Motivate Your Team by Celebrating Small Wins
Most of us feel far happier when we spend time on tasks that lead directly to an end goal. But your company’s loftiest objectives aren’t likely to be achieved in a day, a week, or even a year. So how do you motivate yourself and your staff to get through the little steps along the way?
Motivation comes in two forms: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation in the workplace is inspired by external rewards like money, promotion, and other tangible incentives. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, stems from the intangible inside of us – that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment we experience in response to a job well done.
Because intrinsic motivation is known to be far more effective for achieving goals over the long run, it’s important to establish a work culture that’s driven by small wins. When you promote work flow as a series of daily or weekly objectives – rather than as an endless, meandering cycle of chores – good things happen:
- you encourage a process that’s intrinsically rewarding,
- you bring more meaning to your work and everyone else’s, and
- you’re better able to track incremental progress toward bigger objectives
Emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman has a lot to say about the power of small wins, including the fact that regularly celebrating accomplishments in the workplace should be viewed as an investment in your company’s continued success - rather than as just another expense.
Here are some of the methods Goleman recommends for recognizing achievement at work:
Project management tools provide a place where you and your team can visually mark out and comment on progress. If you’re not so tech-savvy, a physical space in your office will do just as well. The point is to set up and maintain a dedicated area where past accomplishments can be reviewed, and appreciative feedback can be shared.
Consider uplifting those dull company meetings by setting aside time for employees to communicate their progress on projects or share kudos from clients.
Establish a Habit
Mark the successful conclusion of another week of small wins by bringing in lunch or end-of-day refreshments on Fridays, or by inviting staff to knock off a bit early. Celebratory gestures like these effectively end each week on a high note that can carry right through to the following Monday.
Remember, a motivated team is a productive, more profitable team. And that can’t help but benefit your company’s bottom line.