Pitfalls to Powerful Goal-Setting: Six Ways NOT to Set a Goal for 2012

We hear it everywhere… it’s practically in the air we breather in January… Resolutions. Plans. Goals.

There’s something instinctual about taking a look at the beginning of the year at what we want to accomplish this year, how we want it to go. Goals can set the bar, the pace and the mood for the year — or they can fall flat, discourage us and create a negative environment… it all depends on how we set them up.

As you take a look at your company ambitions for the year, here are a few things to avoid:

Pitfalls to Powerful Goal-Setting

1. Bringing in the critic before the brainstorming process is over. We were all taught in grade school that brainstorming means getting every idea out on the table, no matter how bizarre or outlandish. As adults, we often edit ourselves too quickly — we not only shoot down ideas that might lead to other workable options, but we dampen the process itself so that we are less likely to think creatively. Instead, get all the ideas out and only edit at the end. Imagine you were an alien, or a consultant, coming in to look at your company, your department, yourself. What do you see about the coming year from that perspective? What have you as yourself been tolerating or not saying that that alien/consultant sees instantly as a glaring issue to address? You’ll be amazed at what those aliens say if you don’t shoot them before they land!

2. Basing our goals on the past. Any goal that has “more” or “less” or any comparative words in it is simply referencing the past rather than creating anew. You know the phrase “do what you always done, get what you always got?” Same goes for goals — setting this year up in comparison to last year just drags us back there. Don’t even reference the past, just set a clean, fresh goal.

3. Aiming too low. Setting a goal we know we can hit is uninspiring and doesn’t set up any room for growth. If we’re not growing, we’re dying, so set a goal that will stretch you and give you room to fill in the blanks with new discoveries. Without any “no” or “it’s impossible” in the conversation, what do you say is needed next? If there were no one or nothing to deter the answer, what do you say is needed for the company/department/you? Is it a different management structure? An improved work schedule? A new attitude? What do you really want to shift?

4. Aiming too high. Setting a goal that is completely outlandish where no one has any belief that it’s achievable is demoralizing and leaves people resigned that it’s impossible. You can reach for the stars, but you have to believe you can build the spaceship!

5. Setting a goal for someone else. People are more motivated when they’ve set their own goals. If at all possible, involve your teams and employees in setting their own departmental and individual goals – they’ll be far more motivated to reach them. If it’s a company wide goal that you must pass along, then have conversations with your teams about what’s in it for them to reach that goal, so that they have a personal stake in it.

6. Ignoring the goal. Once you’ve set the goal, don’t throw it in a drawer only to be brought out at the end of the year. Post it. Reference it. Chart your progress in getting there. Have discussions about what is working, what’s missing and what you’ll do next to get there. Keep it present so the finish line is in sight. Reward your team for all the milestones they pass along the way.

Keep these pitfalls in mind and go set some amazing goals for 2012!
We can’t wait to hear how they turn out!!