Own your goals
As we head towards a new year, it’s normal to want to set goals and treat January as a new start. But the best goals are built on what came before, and goal-setting should recognize successes and challenges of the past. These are ten tips on how to start a new year in the right direction.
Keep your goals positive
It sounds obvious, but focusing on do’s is much better for morale, and creates a better sense of purpose, than focusing on don’ts. Set goals based on successes you want to achieve, rather than pitfalls you aim to avoid.
Involve your team in goal-setting
Your whole team needs to be in alignment if goals are to be met. And the best way to ensure this is to bring them on-board early. Rather than presenting a set of goals to your team and expecting them to blindly follow you, work together with them to identify and decide upon goals based on SMART criteria (more on that below). Write the goals down together on a shared document, it’s a great way to ensure team cohesiveness and accountability.
A good goal should meet five SMART criteria: it should be
Specific: a vague goal is no goal at all, make sure you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve
Measurable: without having a way to measure success, you’ll never know how close you are to achieving it
Attainable: While it’s important to challenge yourself, unattainable goals will lead to disappointment and low morale
Relevant: your goals should align with your broader purpose. Otherwise, your goals will be a distraction from your true mission
Time-based: If you haven’t met your goals within the desired timeframe, it’s time for a reassessment
Analise what’s gone before
The new year is a natural time for that reassessment. Using your experience of previous results will help you strike a balance between setting goals that are too modest or goals that are unattainable. Remember, failures can be just as instructional as successes, identify what has been holding you back and use that insight to instruct your next set of goals. Conversely, learning from past successes requires humility and recognition of the factors and people that helped you along the way.
Take it step-by-step
Use your analysis of past results - and your understanding of the factors that led to those results - to identify small operational targets. Rather than just focusing on your overarching big-picture goals, these operational targets will form the basis of your action plan. This keeps you moving forward, and multiple small wins will add up to the big-picture changes you want. Plan and then trust the process.
Document and record
Regularly revisit the document where you set your goals with your team and record your progress through each operational target. This is how you and your team can see how far you’ve come together throughout the year. But…
Don’t let it become a box-ticking exercise. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to recognize and act upon what is working, and what isn’t getting you closer to your goals. It’s almost inevitable that you will have to make changes to your operational targets throughout the year. Remember to include your team in this process and communicate why things are changing and how this change will help you get to where you want to go. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re arbitrarily moving the goal posts.
Team members with higher self-efficacy will be the ones that help you towards your next set of goals. Self-efficacy is the measure of an individual’s belief in their ability to reach specific goals. People with higher levels of self-efficacy tend to accept tougher goals and be more committed to those goals, they are better at reacting to negative feedback and questioning goals assigned to them where they see flaws. As a leader, the best way to increase the self-efficacy of your team members is to lead by example.
Focus on performance, not outcomes
Sometimes, even the strongest members of your team will fall short of their targets, whether due to unforeseen setbacks, unrealistic expectations, or any other reason. When this happens, it’s important to remember that their hard work has kept your organization moving in the right direction, and you’ve made more progress than you would have done if you didn’t have a goal to strive towards at all.
Celebrate your wins, and plan to do so
And when things do go right, make sure the whole team knows about it and receives the joint recognition they deserve. When planning, remember to set aside time in your plan to celebrate those wins!