Personal Growth

By Dr. Josh Axe

Goal Setting: 4 Keys to Increase Success as a Leader

As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” When business owners and executives don’t have clear goals, the company suffers. Goal setting requires forward-thinking. There’s no room for wasted months or years moving in a direction that isn’t fulfilling the business’s mission. Getting specific about goals helps leaders achieve the purpose of the organization.

While taking time to step away from work to set personal goals can be difficult, it’s proven that goal setting is crucial for growth. Recently, a study from Leadership IQ showed, “People who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals.” However, setting goals is a struggle for most. Less than 20% of the people observed in this study said they could vividly describe their goals. In fact, only about 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals. To help master goal setting, follow this five-step strategy.

Make Goals Specific 

The SMART System, used by large corporations and small businesses alike, helps people create targeted and defined goals. You can apply this method to short-term, long-term, daily, monthly, and yearly goals.

When setting precise, effective goals consider:

  • What is the (S)pecific goal?
  • How is it (M)easured?
  • How is it (A)chievable?
  • Why is it (R)elevant?
  • What is the targeted (T)ime-bound deadline?

After answering these questions, you’ll have more clarity in your goals, and they will be easier to track. The SMART goals strategy also helps tie goals to the organization’s mission and purpose.

Work Toward Goals that are Challenging, Yet Attainable

Effective goal setting should make your team feel stretched and challenged, but not overwhelmed. One way to set realistic goals is to develop “Objectives and Key Results” (OKRs). This goal-setting framework is used by Google. Writer Michael Schneider explains the tech company uses this method to “encourag[e] its employees to stretch themselves, be ambitious and embrace uncertainty . . . Google recommends only three to five objectives total.” 

How To Set Goals and OKRs

“Objectives and key results are the yin and yang of goal setting,” writes John Doerr, billionaire venture capitalist and investor, in Measure What Matters. Setting OKRs helps people dream big and view goals from a large-scale picture. Nevertheless, the team creating the goals must track them through key results. This method helps people determine whether or not goals are practical.

  • What is the big picture vision (where are you trying to go)? 
  • How is the goal measured? (must be specific and measurable)
  • What potential hurdles or factors make this goal challenging?
  • Which emotions will reaching these goals invoke in the team?
  • What does each goal milestone look like?
  • What will success look like? (paint a specific picture)

Create a Strategy for Goal Achievement

After you’ve defined OKRs, it’s time to set an action plan in motion. Take your year-long personal goals and break them down into measurable milestones, with rewards in place for yourself and your team at each milestone. Inserting motivating factors into the plan helps people feel engaged and inspires them to keep pushing forward.

As Jeff Harden for Inc. notes, “A goal is great for defining what success looks like; a system is great for actually making progress toward that goal. Your goal can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually, a well-designed system always wins. Everyone has personal goals; committing to a system makes all the difference in achieving that goal.”

Time Management and Goal Completion

After smaller goals are clear and organized, schedule them on a calendar, reserving at least two months for larger goals. Consult your key team players to make sure that the timeline set for the goal is reasonable, based on the workload it requires.

goal setting

Avoid Past Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

What does a company do what set goals fall flat? In an article for Entrepreneur, Brian Tracy, CEO of Brian Tracy International, poses an important question to ask when goal setting isn’t working: “Why have I not achieved this goal already?” Many goals aren’t realized because of self-sabotage, limiting beliefs, or old patterns that block the desired growth. Self-doubt or excuses can halt personal goals in their tracks or cause them to lose focus or motivation. 

Becoming aware of past destructive patterns or habitual blocks requires time to reflect. Carve out a place in your schedule for pressing pause and thinking about what’s getting in the way of achieving goals.

Defining the factors preventing you from reaching your goal helps you realize how to side-step problems in the present and keep them from repeating those in the past. Is a better support system required? Is the goal unreasonable? Does your leadership team have trouble delegating tasks? Writing down answers to these questions can help build a goal achievement strategy to overcome the company’s hurdles.

Make Goals Happen

Goal setting and achievement will eventually become a habit, but keep in mind that new habits don’t form overnight. A new study from the European Journal of Social Psychology concludes that on average it takes 66 days for repeated action to turn into one. For this reason, treat scheduled goals as if they were an appointment with an important client. Furthermore, avoid rescheduling or dismissing them.

Being a leader with a clear vision and strategy for the future helps keep the company sustainable and on track for continued growth. When business professionals excel at setting goals, they better serve their companies, providing them with the clarity and framework they need for success. Living by example, however, is one of the best ways leaders show their teams how to set and achieve their goals.

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