Tag Archives: Gary Keller

The #1 Mistake When Setting Strategic Goals

When it comes to goals, Tony Robbins says that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten years. When you look back on the past year, did you accomplish all you set out to do? If so, congratulations! For the rest of us, I’d like to offer a perspective about how to make next year your best one yet.

Whether you are setting goals as a leader in your organization, or more personal in nature, there is one mistake most people make: they set too many. Most organizations create way too many strategic goals or “priorities” and end the year having half-fulfilled a bunch of intentions that didn’t make the impact they desired in the business.  It’s hard enough to harness a whole organization of people around one goal, let alone fifteen or twenty. And we all know that one strategic goal probably involves ten projects to complete. Employees become confused because they are so many “priorities” they don’t know where to focus. And focus is essential for achieving results. As Jim Collins said in his book, Good to Great, “If you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities.”

So how do you utilize the power of focus? First, you must have clarity. The entire organization needs to be clear about what they are working toward. As a leader, you must communicate over, and over, and over again to reinforce the message and goals you are working toward. Only then will you harness the power of a collective group of people who make things happen and get results.

So think big, but in small numbers. Meaning, set some grand goals for your organization, but keep it to a manageable number so you can achieve extraordinary results instead of mediocre results.

As you move into the new year and start rolling out the new annual goals and initiatives, think about these four things:

Do we have the resources to achieve all the goals we have set? Many leaders spend two days at an off-site retreat creating strategic goals, but fail to think through the next step: do we have the resources to achieve these goals? Resources might be employee time, money, or training. Often, the IT department is involved in many, if not all of the annual goals. Do you have the resources in IT to manage the projects successfully? What do you need in order to achieve each of these annual and strategic goals? Just by thinking through the required resources, you may discover that some of your goals really aren’t achievable with the available resources at this time. Or you may decide you need to take resources from one initiative and allocate them to another, more important goal.

Are all of these goals really a priority this year? Many organizations create a “wish list” instead of a realistic goal list. Throwing goals on the list hoping that you might get to it is not a good strategy. As a leadership team, it is useful to go through each goal and discuss if it should be a priority for the year, and why. For example, perhaps one of your goals is to implement a new type of software next year. For some organizations, this might be an immediate and important project that must get done in the next year. For other companies, it might just be nice to get it done, but it’s not really a priority compared to some other pressing issues. Perhaps adding positions in  a department is much more important than implementing a new software system. The point is, every organization is different, and it’s prudent to dissect each goal to determine where the best focus of time, money and energy will be.

What is our plan for communicating these priorities? Once you have determined your most important priorities for the year, the leadership team needs to determine how you will communicate these priorities to managers and staff. This important step is often overlooked or underestimated. The very people who are tasked with accomplishing the projects to achieve these goals are often the ones who don’t have clarity on what they should be doing. Your job as a leader is to create absolute clarity around where employees should be focusing their efforts, and then continue to communicate the message consistently throughout the year. A great book that will walk you through this process is The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni.

What process will we use to track our strategic and annual goals? Whether it’s a software system or regular meetings, you must have a way to track progress and make adjustments when necessary. Communication is essential in this step, as the more goals you have, the more projects are involved. How will your employees communicate goal progress to you so you can make sure the credit union is on track to meet the goals?

These principles can also be applied to your personal life. The reason most people don’t achieve their New Year goals or resolutions is that they set too many goals and don’t think through their strategy. The key is to pick a few priorities that will have the biggest impact in your life, and think through how you will achieve the goal. This includes setting the proper expectations for progress. One of the most common goals on resolution lists is to lose weight, yet most people don’t think through their plan of how they will accomplish it. They jump right in and get frustrated when they don’t see immediate results. Results aren’t immediate;  progress happens little by little and compounds over time. The book, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy will inspire you to take those small steps to achieve your goals.

As you prepare to make next year the year of clarity and achievement for your organization, I would recommend reading the following three books that will support your leadership team in getting excellent results:

  • The One Thing by Gary Keller
  • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
  • Great by Choice by Jim Collins

Success doesn’t just happen. It requires clarity around the goals, followed by consistent effort. But with proper planning and regular communication, your organization can knock it out of the park next year.

I’d love to hear from you–how many strategic goals have you found to be the limit for ensuring they are all accomplished?