Where are you going?

‘Tis the time of year when many leaders turn their minds to next year’s goals. Whether you’re setting your own or those for a whole team of people, there are at least three ways to tackle goal-setting.


Tulsa mapThe first roadmap approach is what it sounds like: A clear line from point A to point B. Need to hit $750,000 in revenue? Trying to get a piece of legislation passed? Great, here are the things you will do and measure to get there. Here are the milestones you will hit (or not). It’s all laid out for you, how many calls or contacts, how many cans of beans you will sell to get there. Things happen in order: A left, then two rights and another left, 93 miles total, one stop for gas.

This is a great way to set goals if you have tried and true strategies and tactics in place, if you know that what worked last year will work again this next year. It’s also a great way to set a team goal, particularly if it is easy for you assign different aspects of the trip to different members of your team.

You can build this set of goals by walking through facing forward — then we’ll do this, then we’ll do that. Another approach, however, is to look backwards from success. Start by seeing yourself standing at your end state; get a clear picture in mind of what it feels like to be there. Now, how did you get there? What steps had to happen last, and to get to those decision or action points, what had to happen before that, and before that?

Both roadmap approaches are good ways to set goals. Sometimes, however, that approach has felt like pushing a huge weight in front of me through the year. And often, those goals written so carefully at the beginning of the year are never revisited.

Areas of Focus

This is what I tried this past year for my business, and it worked. At the beginning of the year, I knew where I should focus my time — I had ┬áseveral big buckets — but I wasn’t quite clear about what should happen in those areas. I couldn’t map out the steps to success in part because I was treading new territory. So instead of writing goals on the left-hand side of the spreadsheet and pushing them forward to the right-hand side by December 2012, I wrote areas of focus at the left-hand side, and I wrote some metrics for those areas of focus on the right-hand side. The idea was to focus on connecting the left with the right side over the course of the year. If I really could focus on those seven areas over the course of the year, would it feel like a good year, one in which I really stepped forward?

It would. I revisited my areas of focus every quarter (monthly felt like too much) to see if I was getting things done or — more telling — not getting things done. By consistently reviewing areas of focus, I could see why things were or were not happening, and what needed to shift for success. For example, in my “volunteerism” area of focus I realized mid-year that I had to completely reframe a commitment…or I would not deliver. The systematic reconsiderations also allowed me to incorporate new tools, new ideas, new approaches. Given how fast the world of business is changing, that flexibility is vital.

It’s not a perfect system, but that’s what 2013 is for, right? Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.