Better Goal-Setting with Accountability and Feedback Loops

goal setting

Getting to our ONE Thing takes time, practice, focus and a steady hand. We have to keep our priority in front of us at all times, and that’s easier said than done. Even if we know the single thing that’s most important to us — whether today, this year or over the course of our lives — there are an endless number of distractions and detours that can take us away from that goal.

Sometimes we even mistake those sideroads for shortcuts, when in actuality, they end up taking us somewhere we don’t want to go.

That’s why it’s important to stop and take stock every now and then. It’s easy to barrel along, bulldozing our way through obstacles, deadlines and challenges, but if we don’t come up and take a look around every now and then, we’re likely to get off course and bulldoze our way in the wrong direction.

This is where accountability and feedback loops in our goal-setting come into play. These are two simple systems that help keep us moving in the right direction. Now, they’re simple — but they’re not easy. They can make a world of difference if you’re willing to commit to the process, but they require us to put ego aside, to come to our most important work with our full focus and to be patient as things unfold.

The Accountability Cycle

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan talk about the Accountability Cycle in their book The ONE Thing:

“Without accountability, your journey down the path of mastery will be cut short the moment you encounter a challenge. Without it, you won’t figure out how to break through the ceilings of achievement you’ll hit along the way. Accountable people absorb setbacks and keep going. Accountable people persevere through problems and keep pushing forward. Accountable people are results oriented and never defend actions, skill levels, models, systems or relationships that just aren’t getting the job done.”

The reason they’re so sold on accountability? It’s a powerful motivator.

When two people are invested in your success, the stakes are raised. Knowing that someone is counting on us to bring back an answer or an action keeps us honest. We might not solve every problem right away, but accountability keeps us moving.

It can be uncomfortable, we might have to face things we don’t want to, or make hard choices, or change how we’re doing things, but working through that discomfort is always worth it when we come out the other side and win at our ONE Thing.

Feedback Loops

The other powerful thing about accountability is that it creates objective feedback loops. We all get stuck in our own perspectives from time to time, and having someone who’s in our corner, who can see what we can’t, is invaluable.

A feedback loop is a closed circuit of action and outcomes. We make a move, something happens in response: do X, get Y. Having someone to talk to makes sure that we understand our feedback loops correctly, and that we can adjust course accurately based on the outcomes we’re getting.

Of course, sometimes the accountability cycle is something we have to do on our own. There’s not always a mentor available, or maybe our mastermind isn’t meeting for another few weeks. Whatever it is, we can create our own feedback loops for those moments when we have to work it out on our own. A simple way to do this is to be aware of where you currently fall on the the OODA loop, which is a decision making process we talked about here.

The OODA loop is a concept that came out of the US Air Force, and stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.

This is a process we follow automatically — we are constantly making observations, and then orienting ourselves, making decisions and taking action. But using this process consciously helps us move through the loop faster and more effectively.

Here’s a simple process to work through when you’re using the OODA loop to solve a certain problem. You could spend just a few minutes on each of these steps, or take a deep-dive when you’ve got something big to deal with:

  • OBSERVE: Look critically at the situation at hand (just look, don’t try to solve anything yet). What are you personally doing well, and what are you not doing well? Who are the other people involved, and what is the behavior indicating? What’s happening in the environment you’re operating in? Be objective: there can only be one reality and the closer you are to it the better off you will be.
  • ORIENT: Now that you’re clear on the reality of the situation, think critically about next steps. What is your best opportunity? Highest priority? Biggest risks? Think a few steps ahead: what are the ongoing implications of your potential choices? Try to think about the outcomes a few weeks or months from now — not just about what’s in front of you right now.
  • DECIDE: Once you’ve got all your options laid out, it’s time to make a call. What’s the best course of action? Chart a course, outline your responsibilities and those of anyone else involved, map out the key milestones as you progress, and any Key Performance Indicators that will let you know whether or not you’re on the right track. (Sometimes this will be a very short process, other times it will be lengthy. Let it be what it needs to be and give it the right amount of time.)
  • ACT: If you’ve made your decision and a clear plan, it’s time to get going. There’s no time like the present, so unless your plan requires a delay for a specific reason, make a move. Time spent waiting or worrying is time that you’re not spending moving toward your ONE Thing.

Like Gary and Jay say in the book:

“Highly successful people are clear about their role in the events in their life. They don’t fear reality. They seek it, acknowledge it, and own it. They know this is the only way to uncover new solutions, apply them, and experience a different reality, so they take responsibility and run with it.”

Implementing the accountability cycle and understanding how the OODA loop can influence the decision-making you do in your life are simply ways to get up close with the reality of your situation.

To change our reality, we first have to understand it, so take these tools and put them to work on your world today. If you want to get even more clarity around your goals and how you want your future to unfold, get our Long-Term Goals template today to build a specific plan to get you moving.

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The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (Hard Cover)

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