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The Quick and Dirty on Goal Setting

Three ways to set kick a** goals.

· Performance Mgmt,career success

Dear People Ops,

At the end of our performance reviews, we are supposed to set goals but that piece of the review process usually gets neglected due to other demands. Can you share your favorite resources/templates related to goal setting? I would love your suggestions for efficient and productive ways to set individual professional development goals. Thanks!

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a goal is: "The object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result." In other words, any planning you do for the future regardless of what it is, is a goal. That's why goal setting is so important. Every goal you set is an investment in your future or the future of your team.

But only 8% of people who set New Years goals achieve them! Don't let that be you. Let me walk you through three ways to set strong, achievable goals.

1. Write It Down.

Recent research shows "you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis." No joke. Why? Our brains are divided into two sides. If you only THINK about your goals, you're using the right hemisphere of your brain which is your imaginative center. But if you think about your goals and then write them down you also tap into the power of your logic-based left hemisphere. Two sides of a brain are better than one.

Write down your goals, and have your team write down their goals as well. This simple action will have a dramatic impact on your success.

2. Start Small.

"The number one driver of whether a habit change is a success or not that we see is how big the initial goal is. Because everyone, if they’re consistent, will eventually achieve something massive. But the people that end up failing are the people trying to achieve overnight success."

Sure, we can pledge to "own a Tesla" someday. But that Tesla won't magically appear in our driveway. Instead, pledge to save $5 toward that Tesla everyday. The same applies to your professional development. Pledge to be "the boss" one day, but then identify the ten smaller steps that will get you to that big goal, and accomplish them one at a time. Push your team members to break their goals down into smaller, bite-sized pieces so their big audacious goals become manageable.

3. Measure It.

It's important to have measurable goals, so that you can track your progress, and your team's progress and stay motivated. Assessing progress helps your team stay focused, meet your deadlines, and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goal.

Remember the kid in the car who asks "are we there yet?" A goal, without a way to measure its progress, will leave you asking "am I there yet?" throughout your career. A measurable goal should always answer the question how will you know when it is accomplished.


But sadly, effective goal setting can't be fully condensed into three easy bullet points - as hard as I tried. Below are a few fantastic resources I recommend to guide you in your personal goal setting, or to use as a resource for your team when encouraging them to set their career goals.

1. The SMART goal setting system from MIT. If it's smart enough for them, its gotta be smart enough for us.

2. Goal setting worksheet from Wake Forest University, using the SMART model. Easy to understand, use, and share with your team.

3. Know who is really good at goal setting? Olympic athletes. What Olympic athletes can teach us about goal setting.

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