Setting goals is a fundamental component to long-term success. The basic reason for this is that you can’t get where you are trying to go until you clearly define where that is. Research studies show a direct link between goals and enhanced performance in business. Goals help you focus and allocate your time and resources efficiently, and they can keep you motivated when you feel like giving up.
Goals help employees stay aware of what is expected from them and leave little room for people to hide behind the curtain of unspecified expectations. Furthermore, setting and achieving goals translates to feelings of success for both individuals and companies, which in turn spurs greater productivity and confidence.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when your company sets out to make a list of goals:
1. Make sure the goal is feasible and specific. You should be able to visualize and taste and understand the result you are after. Athletes use visualization to help them achieve success. By visualizing your success with close attention to detail, you are preparing yourself and making sure you take the steps necessary to get there. You can also say affirmations over and over again to get you in the right head space. Be as thorough and clear as possible. Broad goals don’t add much value.
2. Make sure the goal is measurable. Trying to achieve a feeling (like being happy) or an ambiguous accomplishment gives you no way to measure your success. When possible, try to quantify the results you are hoping to achieve with percentages, dollars or time. This will allow you to measure what you have achieved and readjust accordingly.
3. Make sure the goal is in your hands. This means you must be able to achieve the goal as a result of your own hard work and determination, or with the willing assistance of someone already in your network. If you have no control over the outcome, it does not make for a realistic goal. Unrealistic goals can ultimately lead to depression and low feelings of self-worth. Don’t put such important things in the hands of what is the equivalent of a slot machine. There must be an action, or several actions, you can perform that will enable you to achieve the goals you set.
4. Make sure the goals are tied in together. For example, it would not be realistic as a company to strive for a better work-life balance amongst employees and to also try to increase sales by 300% unless cuts are made in other departments. Pay attention to how each goal ties in with the others and make sure they are not mutually exclusive.
5. Don’t go overboard. At LevelTen, we work with a progress measurement index called velocity. We look at our history and how much we were able to achieve in a certain amount of time, and then try to set goals in the same ballpark. It’s okay to set one or two more goals if you honestly think you can push yourself, but planning for too much can overwhelm you and make your employees give up altogether. Know your own strengths and weaknesses and plan honestly so you don’t let your team down.
6. Be flexible. Assess your progress periodically, provide honest feedback and adjust as you go along. If you encounter roadblocks on your path to achieving your goals, don’t give up. Instead, be willing to alter them to meet your new needs. Don’t become rigid in accomplishing something that is no longer relevant to you or your business just for the sake of your ego. Sometimes knowing when to walk away or shift gears is progress in and of itself.
7. Set goals for the long-term and short-term. Ideally, you should set goals for the long-term, and then mini goals that are short-term and ultimately tie in with the bigger picture. Long-term goals can take approximately three to five years to achieve, while short-term goals could take anywhere from a couple months to a year or two. Differentiating between the two will help you from becoming overwhelmed or discouraged, and will also assist in always keeping the long-term perspective in mind when the day to day threatens to make you lose sight of it.
8. Make sure you really want it. A goal should be emotionally satisfying. It should tug at your heart strings. Making sure that you really want to accomplish the goals that you set will make you strive harder when the road gets tough. As an employer, this may take the form of you adding incentives that are personally meaningful to your employees. In your personal life, this will foster honest introspection and evaluation of what you really want to achieve. In order to become committed to a goal, one must believe in its importance or significance.
9. Write it down. A written goal represents a real commitment. Commitment is what separates our dreams from our goals. Keep a copy of your goal plan in sight and refer to it often. Harvard Business School researchers studied what made the difference in success or failure for people of similar backgrounds and educational standards. Their studies found that 3% of people were successful, 30% were moderately successful and 67% just existed. The significant difference for the 3% who were successful is that they wrote down specific goals. The 30% who were moderately successful had a general idea of where they were going but didn't have any goals formalized. The rest were happy to watch the world go by. What is interesting is that people in the 30% category only needed to put in a small amount of effort to jump into the next group. The secret behind the effort is the development of habits and strategies which support the achievement of clear goals. Successful people form habits to do the things that less successful people don't like to do.
10. Set goals together and celebrate your victories as a team. In order to increase motivation, employees need to be allowed to participate in the goal-setting process. That’s why it’s important to show employees that a particular goal makes a contribution to the organization’s success. Then, show employees your interest and support. The trick is to achieve a balance between giving employees total freedom and directing them every step of the way. Most importantly, when approaching completion of a goal, set a new one.
Goals will keep you performing at your best and should be a consistent part of your personal or business routine.