So, it is that time of year to plan for 2016 – perhaps to set some goals for the year ahead to be the foundation of your success.
There are many reasons people set goals. We are encouraged to set goals to work out what we want to achieve, what we want to prioritise, and to build action plans that we can follow.
We also create goals because we have to or are expected to. We may be asked by the board to set some specific targets and goals for the business, or we may even have a coach that pushes us to set ‘big hairy audacious goals’.
Goals are important. They provide targets, benchmarks and measurable steps to achieve something of value. They allow review and learning, coordination and ongoing development.
Regardless why your goals are set, there is every likelihood that they are simply set to fail. Just because you want to achieve it does not make it possible. Without proper goal setting strategies, goals are often just impossible pipe dreams.
Before we look at creating brilliant goals for 2016, let’s do a really simple check in:
• What were your 2015 goals?
• What did you achieve for each one?
• Why were those goals chosen and set?
These questions send many people scurrying for their performance review paperwork. What was that goal? Most goals are either achieved and forgotten or not achieved…and forgotten. Goals- like New Year’s resolutions- begin with a big burst of energy, and often swept away by February.
If we don’t take the time to review our previous goals and learn from them, we are often simply setting ourselves up to continually repeat all of our past mistakes.
Starting your goal setting with goal review may be the most important thing you do this year.
If you struggle to set or achieve your goals, then it’s time to take a different approach. Rather than creating ‘dreams’, perhaps it is time to shift to a high performance goal setting and achievement approach.
5 high performance goal setting tips
There are five things that you can immediately do to change ‘dreams’ into goals – and allow them to be achieved. Too often these are overlooked and important goals are simply dreams that remain no more than simple flights of fancy.
1. Achievable goals are congruent.
Often we set goals which are not aligned to our core values, and our driving purpose. For someone who values ‘security’, then setting a goal that involves a high degree of uncertainty or risk (like starting their own business) is not congruent with that, and therefore highly challenging.
If I set goals which are against my personal values, they become easy to de-prioritise (as they as less motivating). In many businesses, goals are ‘scattered’ and not congruent with the person’s values, the organisation’s values, or with all of the other goals they have been asked to achieve.. Ensuring that each goal is congruent, and that the final mix of goals are congruent, is important in setting yourself up for success.
We also set goals that a not for us ( “my doctor says I should exercise more”) – we can understand the logic, but there is little personal motivation to do anything about it. If goals are set for you, or done at the direction of another, then find your angle in that goal – why is it important to you? How is it congruent with who you are and where you are going?
2. Achievable goals are well constructed.
Goals that are poorly constructed are difficult to achieve. For example, negatively stated goals (‘stop smoking’) actually focus us on what we want to move away from, rather than identifying a specific thing to actually achieve. Goals that are non-specific (“I want to find love!”, “I want a promotion”) are dreams, not goals because they are not really defined or achievable. SMART goals are achievable goals.
3. Achievable goals are based on having the right skills and infrastructure to get it done.
Sometimes we set goals without considering the required skills and infrastructure that can make it possible. For example, even if I am highly motivated to juggle, it will never happen unless I have the skills (juggling) and the infrastructure (juggling balls). Ensuring that the skills and infrastructure are present- or can be developed – is key to ensuring that the goal can be achieved.
As a leader, we can really help those we lead by testing their goals for skills and infrastructure. We can also help by ensuring that the skills are developed, and the infrastructure is made available, to support goal achievement.
On a personal level, previous goal review allows us to understand our skills and their applicability, so that we can test our own goals for the skills and infrastructure we may need, and set goals that align with this.
4. Achievable goals are ecological.
If we set a goal that is not realistic in the context (for example, ‘to be more collaborative’ in a culture that is individualistic and competitive), it is unlikely to be achieved. The status quo of a situation often works hard against ‘change’ of one person within a group, and as we change or achieve our goal, the status quo shifts to keep things the same. In the ‘collaborative’ example, the team might change to simply take advantage of my collaborative efforts so they can better compete against me and others. I would therefore be better off not adopting this goal.
To achieve goals that are ecological, sometimes the system has to be changed to allow your change to be valued.
Understanding the nature of the circumstance in which the goal will be achieved is critical to defining the obstacles, steps and path that you must take to ensure your goal is achieved.
5. Achievable goals are appropriately consequential.
Sometimes we can set goals that have positive and negative outcomes. We can see the positive outcomes clearly, but the negative outcomes can be unconscious, internal, or even social in nature. Often the trade-off (what we lose versus what we gain) is too large, so we find ways to not achieve the goal – sometimes even through self-sabotage.
Consider someone who loves being part of a team. They have great friends in the team, and together they talk badly about the management. If one member of the team has the chance to complete a goal and get promoted (become a hated manager, stop being a valued team member), it can act to stop the goal being achieved. I have seen this be the basis of low performing sales and operational teams on many occasions.
So what can you do to make your 2016 goals a reality?
• Start with 2015 goals- what did you learn? The insights that can be derived by reviewing your previous goals can be invaluable. They can give you an indication of your skills, the environment, specific things that challenge you and even can guide you to a better understanding of what you truly value.
• Construct the goal in a specific (SMART) and positive way
• Define its obstacles, including ecology and unintended consequences
• Reward and celebrate achievements along the way.
If you want assistance setting your goals for 2016, please drop me a line.
Good luck in 2016 – set great goals and enjoy achieving them