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Leadership Goal Setting

Goal Setting

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Anyone can set a goal: “My team will make a billion dollars in sales.” The question is, can the goal be achieved?  Achievable goals have several common characteristics.

  • They are in line with the company’s mission, values, and strategy.
  • They are specific and measurable. 
  • The needed resources are available (trained people, sales leads).
  • They have a time limit.
  • They have boundaries (at least $1 million and at most $1 billion).
  • There is a plan in place for achieving them.


Understand the Difference between Goal Setting and Problem Solving

Addressing a problem requires finding a solution; setting a goal requires taking action. While a specific problem is often the source of the goal, that goal is probably only one part of the solution. For example, the goal of achieving a billion dollars in sales might be prompted by a problem with revenue; the solution may include goals of cost cutting and new product development as well as increased sales.


Select among Competing Goals

As a leader, you seldom have one goal to reach at a time. Even in a single project, you have the goals of finishing on time, on budget, to the client’s satisfaction, and without causing burnout or turnover in your team. You may have to adjust your goals to account for the goals of other departments and leaders or to changes in the supply change or competitive landscape.

Most of the highly regarded methods of selecting goals (25-5 Rule, SWOT analysis, decision tree) boil down to prioritization. Find the most important goal, concentrate on that, and ignore the others until that goal is met. The techniques of organizational decision making can help you determine which of your goals are highest in priority and anticipate the effect of lower priority goals (preventing turnover) on higher priority goals (client satisfaction).


Ensure Your Team’s Cooperation

Your team must support the goals you set and the priorities you give to those goals. If you send out a confusing message—for example, saying you want new sales leads at any cost but then objecting to the quality of the leads—or if you ignore the realities of resources and time limits, your goals cannot be met. 

To ensure that you and your team are aligned, you should involve them in developing the goals based on the company strategy, resources, time allowed, and other boundaries. In addition, team members must see the value of the goal from their own perspective: often corporate goals are set without considering the effect on personal goals and on factors such as existing workloads. 

At every stage, you must communicate to ensure that the goal is still understood and achievable, reward achievements, and make the appropriate course correction.


Stress Group over Individual Goals

A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that groups performed significantly better with specific goals, regardless of the complexity of the tasks to reach those goals. However, individual goals had a negative effect on group performance. For a leader, this has practical effects: setting a specific group goal of one billion dollars in sales is more likely to succeed than mandating individual goals of one million dollars each.

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