Say you want a resolution?

By: Scott Dannemiller, Chief Learning Officer, Executive Development Associates, Inc.

happy new year

Sorry. I know the phrase above should be typed in all caps with an exclamation point. But I just can’t do it.  You see, my wife and I have two very loud children. In an effort to bring some peace and tranquility to our home, we have agreed that our new year’s resolution for 2019 will be to “quit yelling.” Just to be safe, I’m including punctuation.

Based on a survey conducted by John Norcross of the University of Scranton, roughly half of us regularly make new year’s resolutions.  Most often, our commitments are about losing weight, getting organized, and saving money. Unfortunately, over 70% of us fail to keep our promises.

It’s enough to make you want to scream.

Luckily, some smart folks at Yale University have developed a tool called stickK to improve our success rate.  StickK is a website where you can specify your goal, sign a commitment contract, enlist others to hold you accountable, and set up consequences if you fail.  StickK even suggests “anti -charities” as a helpful incentive.  For example, a stanch Republican might choose to donate a personalized, commemorative brick paver to the Bill Clinton Presidential Library, or a committed Democrat might contribute funds to the Donald Trump Campaign.

In an analysis of over 125,000 commitment contracts, stickK reports that 29% of those who sign a contract actually succeed in achieving their goals.  However, that number rises to 74% if goal-setters enlist the help of friends to hold them accountable, report progress on social networks, and define a consequence for failing.

While all of this seems helpful for keeping new year’s resolutions, I believe there is a larger lesson for our corporate goal setting.  For those of you embarking on new strategic initiatives in 2019, we suggest adopting these lessons to improve your success rate and achieve positive business results.

  1. Clearly Communicate the Goal (and the real effort required): StickK representatives note that it is not simply the public proclamation of the goal that leads to success, but also the detail Commitment contract which requires people to clearly state the daily steps required to succeed.
  2. Ensure Accountability: Require frequent public updates on the status of each phase of the project, and assign specific people responsible for each deliverable.  If everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.
  3. Clarify the Consequences: A cognitive bias called “loss aversion” shows that people are more motivated to avoid losing something they enjoy than gaining something they have never experienced.  Frame change initiatives in such a way as to clarify what current benefits will be lost of the change is not successful.

*Originally published by Action Management Associates, Inc.

About the Author:

Scott Dannemiller is Executive Development Associates’ Chief Learning Officer and developer of our acclaimed Critical Thinking Boot Camp. A highly skilled facilitator who consistently receives exceptional reviews for his engaging, high energy workshops, Scott is an expert at teaching practical skills using interactive learning methods to help individuals improve their critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making skills.