It’s January, a time when individuals, teams, and organizations set goals for the year ahead. Things usually start off well. Rested from the holidays, we commit to our goals and begin with enthusiasm. All too often, though, we soon get caught in what I call the “activity trap.” We are busy working on tasks—but not necessarily the tasks that will lead to achieving our goals. This applies to both leaders and direct reports.
The following three steps will help you and your people keep your commitments and achieve your goals this year.
Step One: Set Crystal-Clear Goals
The number one reason people don’t achieve their goals is because they set unspecific, unclear goals. That’s why “All good performance starts with clear goals” is one of the fundamental simple truths I write about in my new book with Randy Conley, The Simple Truths of Leadership Playbook.
To set crystal-clear goals, begin with a concise description of exactly what needs to be achieved, and by when. Create a detailed picture of what a good job looks like. If you are working with a direct report, ask them to describe the goal in their own words, to assure that the two of you are aligned in your thinking. The goals should be written down, so later you can compare what’s been accomplished to what you wanted to accomplish.
When a person falls short of achieving a goal, rather than shaming or blaming them, ask yourself, Did I make the goal clear? If the answer is no, the fault lies with you, not the direct report. Have you ever been chastised by a boss for not doing a task correctly, even though you’d never been told exactly what to do? It doesn’t feel very good. As a leader, make sure you don’t make the same mistake.
Step Two: Limit the Number of Goals
This is a tough one for me, because I’m interested in doing so many things. But I’ve learned that when I overcommit, I inevitably under-deliver. Like everyone else, I have only 24 hours in a day, and only so much energy.
When it comes to selecting your goals for the year, keep the Pareto Principle in mind: 80% of the results you seek will come from 20% of the work you do. What is the most important thing you need to accomplish to achieve the results you want? The second most important thing? The third? Focus on those three.
Step Three: Work Together to Stay Accountable to Your Goals
The success rates on New Year’s resolutions are dismal. Studies show that approximately 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. That’s because announcing a commitment isn’t the same as keeping a commitment. For that, you need support. Once the goals are set, too often we go it alone—or leave our direct reports to go it alone.
With so much of today’s workforce feeling disengaged from the work they do, it’s critical for managers to take a servant leadership approach with their direct reports. That means working on the goals together, so you can hold each other accountable.
Resist the tendency to put your needs before the needs of your followers. Before you go to a delegating leadership style, find out what your direct report requires to achieve the goal. Do they need more direction and resources? Do they need emotional support? Tailor your leadership style accordingly.
Finally, be sure to get the direction and support you need to accomplish your own goals. If your leader isn’t available to provide what you need, seek out a mentor or coach. Your chances of success will be much higher if you have an accountability partner.
Entire books have been written on the science of goal achievement—but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. These three simple steps—setting crystal clear goals, limiting the number of goals, and working together on goals—will take you a long way toward your desired outcome. Act on them today!
About the AuthorMore Content by Ken Blanchard