Blog Post / Jan. 13, 2020

Be smart about setting, achieving goals

Written by Claudia Williams

It’s a new year. Time to kick into gear and set goals. In doing so, are you living the definition of insanity?

We tend to do the same thing year after year and expect different results. We set year-long goals, we don’t check in regularly (with ourselves, with our boss, with our teams) to measure our progress against those goals, and we get sidetracked by the unexpected emergencies that pop up along the way. Come year end, we find ourselves scrambling to do as much as we can to meet the goals we set — but ignored — several months ago.

Stop the insanity with a few, simple steps to better goal setting and goal achieving:

  1. Set goals correctly. Good goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely, known as the “SMART” system of goal setting. SMART goals are not lofty dreams. They are specific targets or actions that must be completed within identified timeframes to be successful. Leaders must review goals set by employees and provide feedback as early in the goal-setting process as possible. This enables leaders and their teams to have clear expectations about the critical work to be done over the course of the year.

  2. Identify the things you must do over 90-day periods of time to achieve your goals. SMART goals give everyone the big picture of what must be accomplished over the year. Without breaking that down, though, all you have is the perfect recipe for procrastination and cramming at the end of the year. Instead, identify the specific actions you must take over the next 90 days (and then the next and so on) to stay on track to deliver the big picture. Not only does this help you prioritize your work, it’s the perfect setup for one-on-one meetings with your boss to review progress and stay on track (see step four).

  3. Be flexible. Stuff happens. It could be anything from a natural disaster to an acquisition to a supply chain failure and everything in between. Just because you have a particular SMART goal, it doesn’t mean it has to be the only goal. As situations arise, revisit your goals to make sure they still make sense. Adjust as necessary, but be sure to go back to steps one and two each time you need to adjust your goals.

  4. Take the initiative to check in with your boss to discuss your progress against goals. If you’re the boss, you should be engaging in regular and timely coaching so that both you and your team member know exactly where everything and everyone stand. SMART goals and 90-day execution plans provide the perfect backdrop for every leader-employee meeting.

    Making goals and progress part of every one-on-one meeting ensures that nothing will come as a surprise at the annual performance review. Some companies require only a single, mid-year meeting to check performance against goals. That’s just plain stupid. Anyone who’s been through that process (and I’m one of those people) knows that a lot changes in six months. If that’s the only time the leader and employee are discussing performance and goals, I guarantee that one or both will be frustrated and disappointed with the outcome.

  5. Celebrate the wins along the way. As my dad used to say during a round of golf after I hit a bad shot, “There are no pictures on the scorecard. Get the job done.” Not everything will be done perfectly. Be sure to celebrate each win along the way, which includes the ability to recover after a mistake or unexpected headwind gets you off track. It makes the big victories that much sweeter.

Stick to this plan, and you will find yourself working in a collaborative environment where expectations are clearly defined and understood, team members are highly engaged, goals are being met or exceeded, and business is doing what it needs to do: making money.