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12 top tips to effective goal-setting

What it really takes to achieve success

goal-setting video

What does it take to achieve your goals? Why are some people successful at reaching their goals and others less so?

I met Ben Hunt-Davis a couple of months ago – someone who has been very successful at achieving his goals. He’s an Olympic gold-medal winner and author of Will it make the boat go faster? a book all about how to set and achieve your goals.

Meeting Ben got me thinking. What are the behaviours involved in achieving success? What tactics can we all apply to help us reach our goals?

I would like to share with you my 12-point guide to setting personal (and professional) goals.

Plus I’ve created a goal-setting template you can use to help define your goals. And in my next blog, I’ll address how to overcome those pesky obstacles that get in the way of our actually achieving the goals we’ve set ourselves.

You’re probably familiar with the SMART concept. But why is it important for goals to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound?

In the 1960s and 70s, Drs Edwin Locke and Gary Latham looked at why some people achieve their goals and some don’t. They identified five principles of successful goal-setting:

1. Clarity – people who set specific and clear goals are much more likely to achieve them than people who set vague goals. For example, ‘I need to talk to 10 potential customers today’ is a much more tangible and effective a goal than ‘I need to win more business.

2. Challenge – the goal needs to be challenging in order to engage your interest. If it’s not, you’ll get bored and demotivated. Conversely if it’s too challenging you’re likely to get disheartened.

3. Commitment – being committed to your goal is integral to whether you’ll succeed. That’s why it’s important to get employees/team members to buy in to organisational or team objectives.

4. Feedback – you’re more likely to stick to your goals if you can see that you’re progressing.

Feedback on your progress, whether from your manager and colleagues or family and friends, or through your own assessment of how you’re doing, will help to keep you going.

5. Task complexity – a goal that is too complex can be difficult to achieve. Can your goal be broken-down into smaller, simpler, more realistic tasks? Have you given yourself enough time to complete these actions?

In his book, 59 Seconds (2009), Professor Richard Wiseman provides some useful additional tips around goal-setting.

6. Consider the benefits of achieving your goals – think about how you’ll benefit from achieving your goals and create a positive image of what you’re working towards. For example, you want to be promoted to manager, so ‘I’ll be able to improve the performance of the team’ is a more positive and helpful way of thinking than ‘I won’t have to put up with people who don’t pull their weight on the team.’

7. Define rewards to spur you on – reward yourself for making progress towards your goal and relate those rewards to your goal. Treating yourself to a meal out when you get good feedback from your manager, for instance, is fine but your visibility may not be helped if you take more flexi-days off as a reward for your efforts.

8. Put your plan in writing – you’re more likely to achieve your goal if you’ve written it down. Include why you want to achieve this goal, how you’re going to achieve it, by when and the rewards for progress.

So what about Ben Hunt-Davis? What are his tips for successful goal-setting?

9. Focus on your big ‘crazy’ goals – Ben believes it’s important to think big. What are your wouldn’t it be amazing if … ? goals? E.g Wouldn’t it be amazing to be promoted to the position of my manager’s manager?!”

10. Break these down into ‘concrete’ goals – small-chunk your crazy goal into specific and clear goals. “Achieve promotion to next level in one year’s time.”

11. Break these down into ‘habits– define detailed actions that are what you need to do every day in order to achieve your goals. Ask for feedback from my manager on a monthly basis about what I need to be doing and learning in order to prepare for the next level.

12. Use my goal-setting template

Here is my easy-to-use template to aid your and your team’s goal-setting activities.

Download here

My tips for using the template:

  • Stick to a maximum of three goals to keep you focused
  • Think about the benefits of achieving these goals
  • Consider what activities are required to help you achieve those goals, how you will measure and reward progress
  • Also consider what challenges you might face in achieving those goals – be that personal, organisational, financial etc
  • Involve others in setting these goals e.g. your manager.

Please let me know how you get on.

Thank you for reading this article. I post regularly about recruitment and people development – to help you create a brighter workplace. To get future blogs sent direct to your inbox, sign up here.

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