This past Christmas holiday, I spent a good part of the weekend putting together a 1,200-piece Lego Star Wars Republic Attack Cruiser with my six-year-old son. The age range for this toy is 9 to 14 years, so my son was performing well above his level and I, well, let’s chalk it up as a confidence booster. In the end, I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, but my guess is that we both got what we needed from the time together.

There were 148 pages of instructions and it took hours to painstakingly follow the plan. Piece by piece, the cruiser took shape. Even though you could see the end product pictured in the directions, there was no way you could create it without diligently following the step-by-step directions. I don’t care if you’re an engineer by nature or training, there’s no way you could freelance this monstrosity.

What’s my point? Engineers, doctors, attorneys, and Lego-fanatic six-year-old boys don’t freelance, and neither should sales professionals and sales leaders. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t set goals in the past, the rules have changed. There’s no age limit on accepting change and documenting goals; either you play up or you play down.

Five Critical Guidelines for Setting and Achieving Performance

The following goals require discipline and commitment.

  1. Challenging:

    They must stretch you and your sales reps – but they shouldn’t be so difficult that they paralyze or cause self-doubt. The performance level they require should provide a good return on investment for your company, and should drive consistency, hard work and improvement in each of your reps. Remember, it’s no longer about past success, it’s about maximizing future potential.

  2. Specific:

    Each goal or objective (expectation) should be specific and tangible. Saying that you want to “sell more” or “set more appointments” isn’t enough. These are just vague statements. You need to create a blueprint for what you expect your team to achieve. Specificity keeps individuals on the hook by eliminating excuses, creating performance ownership and tapping into possibly untouched perseverance reserves.

  3. Measurable:

    As you set performance expectations, make sure they’re measurable at key points: weekly, monthly or quarterly. This eliminates the subjectivity that can cloud efforts and results. It also provides objective feedback to stimulate improvement. Most importantly, it highlights progress as it happens and creates a critical confidence booster after a tough year.

  4. Public:

    When you and your sales reps hit the wall – and you will – the best way to push through is to know that others are aware of your goals. It’s one thing to disappoint yourself, but risking the disappointment of peers and colleagues is much more motivating for many people. Publicly communicating your performance goals is like consuming an energy bar just when you start to struggle.

  5. Reviewable:

    Whether it happens in the first or eighth week, you will encounter obstacles. Many of them will be familiar roadblocks and foes that have haunted you and your sales reps in the past and have been responsible for less-than-ideal results. Without a consistent and deliberate review process, it’s too easy to avoid accountability and be overly optimistic when interpreting results. A consistent review process will provide a critical boost and much-needed focus when times get tough. And, it will help remove hiding places.

When my son and I unpacked the 1,200-piece Star Wars Lego set, we could have gone rogue and built an elephant, a castle or bulldozer. In the end, it might not have been obvious what we were going for but – with some creative explanation – you’d eventually see the likeness. At that point, maybe you’d accept our rogue efforts (and our rationalization), even if it’s not what you expected.

This is exactly what you need to avoid. If the directions laid out a plan for a Star Wars Republic Attack Cruiser – and that’s what you paid for and expect to get – why would you build or accept anything else?