Getting Where You Want To Go



It’s January – the time that leader’s thoughts turn toward yearly goal-setting. If you follow the textbooks, you’ll write goals, create measures, possibly track your progress and at the end of the year, use the goals to evaluate your success.

And it will probably be a complete waste of your time. Let’s be honest. How many times have you achieved all of your yearly goals?

Why not? Goals are powerful, especially when they are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.) They keep us focused, and without them, you will lack direction and cannot measure your progress.

The problem is, it’s not possible to write specific, measurable goals that will guide you through an entire year. Too many unforeseen forces and unpredictable events will arise that you cannot factor in when you set your goals.

The best you can do is either write vague goals that offer little guidance or ignore your goals as the year progresses.

It’s not possible to write specific, measurable goals that will guide you through an entire year.

The solution is “Using Goals” instead of “Setting Goals.”

Think of it as a dynamic process, responding to changes in the environment, instead of an activity to be completed. Here are 4 tips to choose the right goals and make them work for you.

1. Set goals in the context of your vision.

Where do you want to go? Goals are the markers that signal your progress toward your vision. They need to be continually realigned with your vision. Although NASA carefully projected the path to the moon, they needed to make over 1000 mid-course corrections. If they had focused on their goals along the path instead of the moon, they would have missed it completely.

2. Choose the right goals.

  • What are the high-leverage goals – those that will allow you to leapfrog forward toward your vision?
  • What goals might have a short-term price, but are worth it for the long-term payoff. For example, if you have a vision of building a high performance team, you might include some new team members who “play well with others” even if they lack some skills (with the idea that skills training will be provided).
  • Consider some goals that will give you quick wins, to help see progress and stay motivated.
  • Set goals for relationships as well as tasks. The journey is as important as the destination. Are your actions consistent with your values and where you want to go?

Don’t get so focused on your goals that you forget about your vision.

3. Plan to reset your goals.

Revisit your goals regularly. Consider what’s new. What do you know now that you didn’t know when you first set your goals? Do they still make sense? If you are not willing to change your goals, you may end up ignoring important issues and opportunities.

Change is inevitable. Don’t get so focused on your goals that you forget about your vision. Think of it as “sailing.” You focus on the horizon, your destination, but adjust your course according the to winds and current conditions.

4. Set up systems, processes and practices that support your goals.

On a personal level – what structures and routines do you need to set up to develop the habits that will support your vision? – regular exercise time?

For a team, look at your formal and informal ways of working together. Consider processes for communication, accountability, training and rewards. For example, if teamwork is one of your goals– are there rewards for team performance or is the focus on individual contributions? Systems that are not aligned with your vision and goals will derail you. Make sure you have a good feedback system in order to know how you’re doing.


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Jesse Lyn Stoner is author of several business books including the international bestseller Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision, which has been translated into 21 languages. She is currently the executive director of the Berrett-Koehler Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the next generation of leaders. As a consultant, Jesse has worked with leaders in hundreds of organizations using collaborative processes to engage the entire workforce in creating their desired future. Her clients range from Fortune 500's to non-profits worldwide, including Honda, Marriott, Edelman Public Relations, Skanska, SAP and YPO to name a few. Jesse has been published is many magazines, including the Harvard Business Review, and weekly leadership blog is widely read. Follow her on Twitter @JesseLynStoner and find her on Facebook.

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