Achievable Goals. I worked with a head of sales that consistently missed his goals. Every quarter he would throw out a really aggressive target and the CEO would try to get him to be more realistic. “You hit $500k last quarter, maybe your goal should be $700k this quarter and not $1 million.” Nope. The sales executive would push back that he was bullish on the pipeline and prospects ready to sign. He insisted he was prepared to crush it. Then he would sell $750k. At the CEO’s goal, he would have exceeded expectations and been the hero. Instead, he failed.
When I work with clients on goal setting – and talk to friends about what they want to achieve – I find a lot of optimism, setting not only aggressive goals but often too many. Both often lead to missing those goals as they are not based in reality. If they want to exercise, they want to do it 7 days a week; family dinners 5 nights a week; sales goals that double quarter over quarter or year over year; or complete multiple or complex projects that far exceed what is achievable. My pushback is always the same. Could you set a more realistic goal – something that inspires and challenges you, but is also attainable?
The goal doesn’t have to limit you, it can be the floor of what you want to achieve. Set a goal to exercise 2x a week for the next month. Can you do more? Absolutely! And won’t you feel great achieving that goal week over week; maybe even exceeding the goal with extra walks, mixing up your routine, or being propelled by your early success to do more. But if you set the goal too high and don’t make it (especially out of the gate), your tendency would be to give up defeated.
For business goals, I work with high potential and driven individuals. They often come with too many goals to achieve. My first question is always – over what period of time. The goal-setting may be for the year or quarter, but that doesn’t mean all goals are equal or that all have to start and end simultaneously. Could the goals be sequenced? Can you lay them out to achieve 3 and then move onto another 3? Where are there dependencies and priority? Again, challenging yourself on fewer goals and then moving onto the next list allows a sense of accomplishment based in reality.
I am working with a client right now that wanted to bring exercise back into her routine. Some may argue that shouldn’t be a part of leadership development coaching, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Accountability to self sometimes needs some coaching. Self-care leads to a healthier employee. And healthier employees are more productive and efficient, miss less work for mental and physical health, and are more present for their work. Back to my client who wanted to set a goal of working out 5 times per week. When I found out she was not currently exercising at all, we discussed lowering the goal to twice per week. This was not to let her off the hook. Rather, it was to start a habit. To have her feel accomplished and then expand the goal once she saw and felt the benefits of her hard work. And that is exactly what has happened. She is enthusiastic about her success and is now setting a new goal.
As we start planning for 2022, what goals are you setting for yourself and helping your team to set for the new year? What goals were you unsuccessful in achieving this year and why? Were you unrealistic and too ambitious? As you plan for a new year of goals and resolutions, I invite you to look at goals through an accurate lens. Are they inspiring, yet achievable; ambitious, yet rooted in reality? I believe you would rather meet or exceed your goals than feel like you were not successful. That requires you to start from a place of both the right goals and the right number of goals.