How to get specific and strategic about goal setting

Goal settingAs a business leader do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in 2016?

You may have general ideas, however once you return to the daily operations of the business it’s likely your ideas gets buried deep in the demands of the day-to-day.

Many leaders feel as though they work hard both in and on the business and yet they do not achieve the results or the work life balance they need. Often, for a business leader the key reason is they haven’t dedicated the time to think clearly and strategically without interruption on what exactly it is that they want to achieve.

An important step in defining your business and personal goals is to have a clear vision of what your top priorities are, then outlining the results you want to achieve within a certain amount of time.

Goal-setting paybacks

In New York Times bestseller What They Don‘t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shares an interesting study that was conducted in 1979 on Harvard MBA students revealing the real impact of goal setting. He asked students whether they had clear, written goals for their future and if they made plans to accomplish them; 84% of students admitted they had no goals at all, while 13% had goals that were not written down. In fact, only 3% had specific goals in writing.

When interviewed 10 years later, the 13% of students who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had never established clear goals. However, the 3% with written goals for success had salaries that were a staggering 10 times more than the other students put together.

Ultimately, identifying effective goals and setting a strategy to achieve them helps leaders organise resources, streamline knowledge acquisition and raise motivation, particularly on long-term projects and objectives. Whether you‘re a business leader, a top athlete or a high achiever in any other field, establishing goals provides the focus needed in order to outperform.

Putting goal setting in place to move the business forward

An example of using goal setting to move the business forward is in a recent case study with TEC member Annie Flannagan, the CEO and Founder of Better Business Basics (BBB), which offers accounting and financial services to a range of organisations  throughout Australia.

Working in such a competitive market, Annie learnt early on that the company would need to invest heavily in internal processes in order to succeed. To do this, the company approached the goal-setting process as a set of scales, divided between the front-end user experience and the back-end processes within the organisation.

“We see it like an old-fashioned set of scales – those two must be in balance,” said Annie.

‘Whenever we look at setting goals at the front-end, we create a reciprocal set of goals for the back-end.’

‘All businesses have that, but for use they have to be in balance, because if they are not, we end up with either clients that aren’t being fulfilled or employees that aren’t being fulfilled.’

This has also required a unique leadership approach from Annie, especially around the formulation of company goals and strategy. By putting these processes in place, the company has been able to stay flexible and respond to organisational challenges.

‘If you look at strategy, crafting the strategy is one thing, the delivery of the strategy is the bit which needs to be in balance,’ said Annie.

‘It’s about having the right combination of allowing creative thinking, working out what is not necessary, writing your goals down and then focusing to get them executed.’

For a fast-growing organisation, having multiple perspectives on the development and implementation of company processes around goal setting has been invaluable for developing future strategy.

2015 Modern leadership: working smarter not harder

As a C-level executive do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve both personally and professionally this year? What about over the next 18 months to 5 years? You may have general ideas, however once you return to the daily operations of the business it’s likely they get buried in the demands of the day-to-day.

But how important is it to get specific and strategic about goal setting?

Many leaders feel as though they work very hard both in and on their businesses and yet they don’t achieve the results they want or the work life balance they need. A key reason is they haven’t dedicated time to think clearly and strategically about what it is they want to achieve. There is also a lack of accountability and follow through on implementation. An important step is to have a clear vision of what your leadership priorities are, and what you want to achieve; having a clear vision.

“More than 80% of the 300 small business owners surveyed in the recent 4th Annual Staples National Small Business Survey said that they don’t keep track of their business goals, and 77% have yet to achieve their vision for their company,” writes Peter Vanden Bos for Inc.

What if we told you the solution is to work smarter, not harder?

In New York Times bestseller What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shares an interesting study that was conducted in 1979 on Harvard MBA students revealing the real impact of goal setting.

He asked students whether they had clear, written goals for their future and made plans to accomplish them.

84% of students admitted they had no goals at all, while 13% had goals that weren’t written down. In fact, only 3% had specific goals in writing.

When interviewed 10 years later, the 13% of students who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had never established clear goals.

However, the 3% with written objectives for success had salaries that were a staggering 10 times as much as the other students put together

Goal-setting paybacks

Identifying effective goals and setting a plan to achieve them helps leaders organise resources, streamline knowledge acquisition and raise motivation, particularly on long-term projects and objectives.

This has a significant impact on productivity that is difficult to ignore, both on a personal and professional level. Whether you’re a business leader, a top athlete or a high achiever in any other field, establishing goals provides the additional focus that is essential to reaching the top.

American business consultant and author Jim Collins offers similar advice, which is why he’s famous for coining the term ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ – or BHAG.

The phrase refers to the long-term proposals that are the hallmark to some of the world’s most successful business leaders. “It is about goal setting. It is about picking a goal that will stimulate change and progress and making a resolute commitment to it,” Collins explains. “This is not about writing a mission statement. This is about going on a mission.”

Working smarter, not harder

The SMART format for goal setting has been around for many years and it’s a common practice among high achievers, as it establishes a helpful framework for gauging the effectiveness of goals and objectives.

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Achievable – specify who will do it.
Results orientated – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time sensitive – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Goals that meet this criteria have a much better chance of positive outcomes, in Peter F. Drucker’s popular HBR article What Makes an Effective Executive he states  ‘executives are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been transformed into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan their course’.

‘Without an action plan, the executive becomes a prisoner of events. And without check-ins to re-examine the plan as events unfold, the executive has no way of knowing which events really matter and which are only noise’.

Ultimately, leaders who set goals both personally and professionally have the direction and focus required to pursue powerful strategic objectives. Modern leaders have the ability to set and achieve progressive goals and distil this into business metrics.

So how do you drive strategic goal setting? Every leader has business obligations whether it’s focused on innovation, becoming the premier distributing vendor, taking your company public or creating the best consumer experience. TEC Goal Setting is an effective way to incorporate this into your personal and professional life through a highly customised learning experience, credible resource of content and accountability.