By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

One of the best ways to improve as a leader is by improving your goal-setting abilities. These five goal-setting tips will help you focus on your goals and achieve them.

The majority of people who set goals for themselves never achieve them. This could be for a variety of reasons. However, if you are a leader, then the stakes are higher for achieving the goals you set. You have executive-level leadership looking to you for performance and a team below you looking to you for leadership. 

An effective leader knows how to manage both long and short-term goals. This guides the team step by step to reach the desired end result. By achieving goals, you solidify your effectiveness as a leader and improve personally to achieve your own career goals. 

These goal-setting tips will help you become a better and more effective leader. 

1. Eat the Frog 

Don’t actually eat a frog. Instead, take to heart the message in Mark Twain’s famous quote. The idea is to prioritize your worst, largest, or most dreaded task first. Then everything else you do won’t be as bad as that first task. Doing this helps you to stay motivated and feel accomplished. You’ll tackle the worst task while you’re mentally and physically fresh, allowing you to perform better. 

2. Break It Down 

It’s ok to have a high-level lofty goal. However, you don’t want to focus on it because this won’t help you accomplish the steps in between. For example, you’ve set a goal for the company to increase profits by a particular percentage. This is a great goal to have, but how will you accomplish it? 

Break the goal down into manageable and attainable tasks. Perhaps you decide to reduce unnecessary overhead costs, release a new product, increase current product sale prices, or enter a new geographic market. These are all actionable tasks that may not get you to your goal on their own but, when done together, contribute to your overall profit increase goal. 

3. Interview Yourself 

Pretend that someone is interviewing you about your goals. Ask yourself the questions someone else would ask. This could include why you’re setting the goals, potential pitfalls, and the intended outcome. The idea is to step outside of yourself and the goal-setting task. This can help you gain a new perspective and ensure that you don’t become too focused on goals that aren’t going to help you achieve your desired results. For example, increasing profits is a great goal to have, but it may not be the most effective goal for growing and strengthening your company. 

4. Reduce Your Timeline 

It’s always better to under-promise and over-perform than over-promise and under-perform. As a leader, you’ll have to answer to those above you for the performance of your team. If you have a set deadline, then you’re expected to meet it, or it will reflect badly on your team and your leadership skills. Instead of using your given deadlines for your goal setting, build in some time. 

By reducing your timeline, you and your team will be more motivated to meet the shorter time frame. This also gives you built-in leeway in case something delays your work. The result is the tasks getting done sooner, your team meeting deadlines, and your leadership skills confirmed. For this to work, though, your shorter deadlines still need to be realistic. Setting too short of deadlines can have the opposite effect of demotivating and frustrating your team. 

5. Implement These Goal Setting Tips 

The best leaders can see the high-level, long-term goal and break it down into manageable tasks. They can then guide the time through the process of completing tasks by setting realistic deadlines. Focus on accomplishing the hardest and most unpleasant tasks first. Then, periodically interview yourself to ensure you are on the right track and focused on the most effective goals.

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