Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.Dan Richards

Many advisors have ambitious goals for their businesses. Perhaps you want to achieve dramatic growth in assets, build presence in an especially attractive client segment or shift to a drastically different business model.

But having ambitious goals is one thing – translating them into reality is another. And that’s where most advisors stumble.

This problem is much broader than financial advisors – making tangible progress against goals is a universal frustration for businesses.  One big difficulty is the force of inertia and the sheer difficulty of getting change underway. Once you have a bit of momentum, change can develop a dynamic of its own.

Getting that initial momentum is the challenge.

Effecting change in your business is like trying to move a 500-pound rock. It takes immense effort to move that rock the first inch – but once you get a bit of movement, the next inches become dramatically easier; your priority often becomes guiding the direction of that movement.  

Two recent articles provide insight on how to achieve progress towards ambitious goals. 

The power of small wins

First is an article in the Harvard Business Review, by Teresa Amabile and Stephen Kramer.

Amabile and Kramer asked members of teams charged with launching new products to maintain online diaries, recording events each day and their feelings as a result. 

They collected 12,000 daily diaries. From their research emerged the “progress principle. Here’s how they summarized this in their article:

Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress even a small win can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.

Think of the things we do to design recognition and rewards to keep ourselves and our team motivated – and then consider that these are all secondary to feeling a sense of tangible progress. Even very small wins can lead to what Amabile and Kramer describe as a “positive feedback loop,” as the motivation from one small win can lead to the next win and the next one after that.

Here’s more from the article by Amabile and Kramer.

If you facilitate (your team’s) steady progress in meaningful work, make that progress salient to them, and treat them well, they will experience the emotions, motivation, and perceptions necessary for great performance. Their superior work will contribute to organizational success. And here’s the beauty of it: They will love their jobs.