We live in a time and culture where a lot of people are either chasing the next big thing, or getting caught up with the day to day busy work and firefighting. While this is often fun and exciting, or appears to be necessary, it should not be at the loss of the items defined in your annual strategic plan. These are the goals you have deliberately set yourself because you know they are the right things to focus on if you want to grow your business.
Why Goal Setting Works
When done correctly, goal setting is effective and often critical to success. Goals give us direction by focusing attention on goal-relevant behavior and away from irrelevant tasks. They are the priorities that need to stay out front of us , ahead of the fire fighting and day to day work.
What is goal setting?
Goals are the object or aim of an action, usually within a specified time limit. It starts with identifying a new objective, skill, or project you want to achieve. Then, you make a plan for achieving it, and you work to complete it. Goals do not always need to be related to your annual strategic plan. Think about a new employee that is just starting with your organisation. It’s easy for an employee to feel a bit lost during the onboarding process. Sometimes they receive so much information in training that it becomes hard to remember at all. Other times, they’re not sure what to do because nobody has coordinated their training. Setting clear onboarding goals can help keep everyone on track.
Why is goal setting important?
Top-level athletes, successful business people and achievers in all fields set goals. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation . It focuses you and helps you to organize your time and your resources. You can measure and take pride in the achievement, and see forward progress in what might previously have seemed a long pointless grind.
The down side
Within the workplace, pressure for results with no attention to how they are attained, can trigger the use of costly methods, or dishonesty and high-pressure tactics in order to attain rapid results. As with any other management tool, goal setting works best when combined with good management practices. While there are disadvantages to goal setting, it is important to remember that, with sufficient foresight and good management, these problems can be overcome or prevented entirely.
How to Set a Goal
- How to Set a Goal: Before you set a goal, take a closer look at what you’re trying to achieve and ask yourself the following questions: Is this goal something you truly want? Why is it important, what will it achieve for your business? Is it important enough to pour hours of time and effort into it? What is the Cost Benefit? Also remember that If you create a long list of goals to pursue all at the same time, you may have a difficult time achieving any of them.
- Consider the commitment: Commitment refers to the degree to which an individual is attached to the goal and their determination to reach it – even when faced with obstacles. Goal performance is strongest when people are committed, and even more so when said goals are difficult.
- Ensure you provide clarity: Specific goals put you on a direct course. When a goal is vague, it has limited motivational value. It should define what “Done” means
- Make sure it is challenging: Goals must be challenging yet attainable. Challenging goals can improve performance through increased self-satisfaction, and the motivation to find suitable strategies to push our skills to the limit. If it isn’t challenging then it is not a goal, simply a task.
- Consider the task complexity: Overly complex goals that lie out of our skill level may lead to a diminished feeling of self worth and ability to do our jobs along with frustration.
- Set deadlines: Goals should have some sort of deadline and sense of urgency associated with them, otherwise procrastination can take place with no need to start the goal just yet
- Provide feedback: Goal setting is more effective in the presence of feedback. Feedback helps to determine the degree to which a goal is being met and how you are progressing. Are you on track or making a deviation?
The S.M.A.R.T. method
- S is for Specific (See Task Complexity) : It’s important to be as specific as possible when setting goals. This can make the difference between knowing what you are aiming for and how you’ll get there versus being frustrated in the face of a seemingly insurmountable or open-ended goal.
- M is for Measurable (See Clarity): Having a goal which can be quantified in some way makes it a lot easier to track your progress. Consider a ‘get fitter’ goal, how does one know when peak fitness has been achieved?
- A is for Achievable/Attainable ( See challenging ): Is the goal you have set actually achievable? Whilst humans are industrious, innovative, beings with massive potential for achievement, the goals we set need to be grounded in reality.
- R is for Relevant ( See Commitment): Here we focus more intently on the subjective ‘why’. Is the goal you’ve set something you actually want to achieve or does it stem from some external pressure? Do you really want to double the efficiency of your department at work?
- T is for Time-specific (See Deadlines): Deadlines maximize the reward versus time component of achieving a goal. For example, ‘get fit enough to run a half marathon by the end of summer’ includes a clear yet achievable timescale.
Create an action plan
Many people decide on a goal but never create an action plan to determine how exactly they will meet that goal. Your action plan should include the overall goal you’re trying to meet and all the steps you need to take to get there. Determine the milestones and the critical path and set some dates.
Remember to review your goals
Once your goals are set, it is important to revisit and reassess them. Reviewing goals affords the opportunity to assess progress and to ensure they are still relevant. Regular goal reviews ensure the goal is still relevant – is this still what you want to achieve? If you do not ‘check in’ on your progress, you can lose sight of your ultimate aim which will result in disappointment, frustration and less motivation to attain it than when you first began your journey. Essentially, reviewing your goals ensures that you are monitoring your progress in relation to successes and failures. It gives you the chance to analyze the good and bad, so that you can regroup, build on that knowledge, and improve future goal setting strategies. I have often seen people carry over goals from one year to the next, without looking at a new strategic plan for the year, or evaluating why the goal was not completed the year before.