When you set a short- or long-term goal, you have identified an expected outcome. By the time you complete the goal, does the outcome look anything like you initially planned?
The answer was unanimously NO from the 100 people I asked. Every single person said the starting goal looked nothing like the expected ending … if it was completed at all. I asked a range of people from senior leaders, company officers, as well as front line workers.
Across the board, people’s (and their company’s) goals don’t end as they envisioned. I found hints that individuals started to set a reduced number of goals and have fewer plans because of this. We need an anchor to be connected to, as well as the outcome we look toward. The purpose of a goal is to move forward in a particular way for a particular purpose. Without goals and a strategy for where we want to be in the future, we do not have clarity to best choose what the right course of action is right now.
This lack of direction could be why you hear yourself and people around you say things like:
- I don’t need a five-year plan, or even a five-month plan, because everything changes so quickly.
- I don’t see how what we’re doing now really gets the company to where we are going.
- Nothing we want to change stays changed.
- Our competition is getting stronger and we are losing market share.
Statements like these show part of you has given up. You haven’t had success making plans and setting goals, so you don’t. To achieve the success you want, this much change.
You need an anchor, a home base, or a reason. How do you begin making change around goal setting? Around making the right choices to keep moving toward those goals?
There is a simple answer: Talk about your priorities.
Simplicity isn’t always easy. It’s easy to pick your battles. It’s easy to let small things slide. Yet, the results of many small things are what erode the success of your decision-making. It’s harder to know which of the battles and small things that you let go of matter when the milestones are unclear, even unknown. This is where practice comes in.
Make one small change to the way you make decisions and practice it until it becomes second nature:
Talk more often about your priorities.
Choosing what we focus on is deliberate. When you focus on priorities, what isn’t important to them falls away. The small changes you can make – today – to bring your priorities more into focus serves to incorporate them into conversation with others. This single action reminds your brain about what’s important, and what is worth taking up head space, heart space, and gut space. Incorporating goals and objectives into conversations helps others know what is significant.
Talking about your priorities is integral to staying the course with your strategy.
Strategies are long-term. Goals are your milestones on the strategy journey. When your priorities match your goals, your goals move you toward the growth you have planned for.
Sometimes overlooked is making sure your set goals and objectives are tuned into the long-term vision. Goals reflect your priorities right now and the outcomes reflect your progress over time. There must be a congruence between your goals and the outcomes of the goals to move toward your vision. THE way to ensure you know how aligned goals are to your longer vision is by talking about what is important.
Just by talking about what’s important changes how you show up and respond:
You expand capacity to allow for the unexpected.
Whether curiosity, shiny object syndrome, or a great loss, the way you show up to situations will change. When what we care about is top of mind, every interaction begins with an awareness of what is important right now. Your awareness is what matters.
It is important to recognize that this isn’t selfish, bossy, or egotistical. There is still space for you to be open and for others to bring their voice. What matters to your current goals and longer-term vision requires that you stand firm in what’s important to you right now.
Your calendar and time management becomes an asset.
Productivity has value, yet when we use productivity to measure output there is an increased chance that only output is used to measure results. Doing important work isn’t about what we get done today. Important work is about making choices today that allow you to reach your goals on time using existing resources. Important work does not always have an immediate result. For example, thinking about next quarter and next year and how that fits into a five-year plan is important.
(Decision-making features its own set of skills … stay on the lookout my speech about “Breaking Through: Decisions that Last,” where I go in-depth about the problem and share the three skills you need and how to cultivate decision-making chops.)
The takeaway here is to sit with this question: does what you say “yes” to now fit into that three-month, one-year, and five-year journey? Become ruthless and only schedule what moves you forward! Become protective of your time and keep time for your important work.
You are a model for colleagues and direct reports.
It takes courage to talk about what’s important. When priorities are part of everyday conversation, other people’s brains also are reminded about what’s important. It creates a lens, a filter, for how conversations about tactical actions align (or don’t) with the strategy for staying competitive and adapting over time. The more we make sure priorities are a part of every appointment and meeting, the more others will see how they bring clarity. More will get done. More confidence about what to do emerges. More quickly everyone can recognize when something needs adjusted to shift along the way. Your team begins to be more accountable to the priorities. They can become a more highly-functional team.
Be consistent communicating priorities.
Clarity in what is important to achieve success this year, and to be poised for success five years from now, comes from a clear message. You are the messenger, and it is up to you to ensure that whatever people are doing – and how they are doing it – aligns to what’s been decided is important. It’s only when you, and those around you, embrace the goals that a direction to the intended finish line occurs.
Know what you value. Look at your actions. Examine where values and action align.
In the BOLD Business Podcast program Share Your Priorities, I discuss this and more. Take a listen to the 50-minute podcast that explores:
If we don’t know what we want, how do we develop impactful solutions and make more good decisions?