Setting Goals – Par for the Course
January is often a seen as a good time to set new goals as a fresh new year can be a good time for a fresh new start. However, New Year resolutions rarely work, or at least don’t work for very long – gym memberships surge by 13% in January but soon drop away as the motivation does too.
Does this mean that setting goals is a waste of time? Absolutely not. You just need to set goals in the right way to maximise your chance of success, and this applies in business as well as in your personal life.
When goals are set correctly, they can be hugely motivating and inspiring. Goal setting in sport demonstrates this. Football managers talk about a points target, athletes target certain times or distances and so on. The absence of goals can lead to ‘drift’ or a plateauing of performance.
It also provides a crucial benchmark for measuring performance. Did you have a good year in 2015? How do you know? If you achieve what you set out to achieve, that’s success. Without a goal or objective, how can you be sure if you or your team are succeeding? Imagine playing golf on a course with no par – you might be happy with your score without knowing whether it was good or better than anyone else! If you’re looking for a promotion or payrise, you need to understand how to go about achieving that and making it your goal.
Setting goals not only gives you a way of focusing your efforts to achieving something specific, but it also helps coordinate the efforts of people working together. Your organisation will have a goal, maybe to increase revenue or reduce costs, or expand into a new market. This goal can then filter down to managers, functions, departments, teams and individuals to ensure everyone is contributing to the main objective.
A good goal should be ‘SMART‘:
Try to make it very SPECIFIC. Someone who wants to run a marathon or cut back on smoking is unlikely to succeed because the goal is too vague. Wanting to run the New York marathon or just wanting to run 26 miles one weekend are two very different goals but both involve running marathons! Smoking one less cigarette a day is technically a reduction but is it really what you want to achieve?
Make it MEASURABLE – how will you know you’ve achieved it? What will you see or hear, what evidence will there be? If you want to perform better in your role, what will tell you you’ve done that? Manager feedback perhaps, or more responsibility.
Don’t keep goals to yourself, share them with other people. In the work context they should be AGREED with your manager or colleagues. This not only ensures they are relevant and achievable, but it sets expectations and gives you accountability, and therefore makes you much more likely to achieve them.
It must be stretching but achievable in order to be motivating. Goals which are too difficult will result in you giving up once they are out of reach, goals which are too soft will be achieved too quickly and could lead to apathy. Make them REALISTIC, then stretch them a little.
Finally, they must be TIME BOUND. Don’t let them drift on indefinitely. At work you might have annual goals which can then be broken down into quarterly or monthly milestones. When are you going to run that marathon? “One day” isn’t good enough!
Setting ‘SMART’ goals can really help focus your energy, motivate and inspire you. Set correctly they can enable you to achieve more than you could otherwise. Try setting your goals for 2016, be positive and review them regularly.