The Eight Most Common Goal-Setting Mistakes in the Workplace
And What To Do Instead
That’s what it feels like to work in a team with poorly set goals. If you don’t know the destination, how can you possibly figure out the directions?
Having the right goals, however, set you up for success.
And you don’t need to be a manager to influence your team’s goals.
So whether you’re a manager or not, this post is for you who want to set winning goals.
The Eight Most Common Goal-Setting Mistakes (And What To Do Instead)
🌟 Reaching too high
Tempting to aim for the stars, ey? I’ve fallen for this trap over and over.
I thought that even if my team didn’t reach the goal, we’d still achieve more than if we had set a lower goal.
But even if you’re trying to shoot a cannonball, you wouldn’t aim for the stars. You’d aim with an angle:
A goal that’s impossible doesn’t “recruit enough of the autonomic nervous system to make pursuit of that goal likely,” says Prof. Andrew Huberman.
If our goals are too lofty, we don’t feel motivated to pursue them.
On the flip side, goals that are too easy also don’t activate the autonomic nervous system as much as moderately lofty goals.
Without a sense of challenge, it can feel like there's no point in even trying.
🎯 Confusing outputs for outcomes
“Having an updated website” is an output.
“Increased signups” is an outcome.
Outcomes hold value. They can be top level business metrics, like sales, or leading indicators, like the number of initial sales calls booked.
Great goals focus on outcomes.
🤷 Skipping the ‘why’
The point of a goal is to guide action. How effectively will a goal guide action if the ‘why’ isn’t understood?
📈 Remaining vague
Great goals are specific.
Bad goals are vague.
Bad: “Simplify user onboarding”
Good: “Decrease user onboarding time by 50% in the next 3 months”
Such specific goals let you measure progress and celebrate when a goal is achieved.
🪜 Trying to parallelize
Fewer goals create focus.
If your energy is spread amongst multiple goals, no goal will progress much. But if you align your effort behind fewer goals, progress is fast and massive.
If your manager is asking you to do too much at once, explain that you can pursue goals sequentially instead of in parallel.
(Personal note: “Do as I say, not as I do.” I have six different goals in parallel and should cut down 😝)
🙈 Setting & forgetting
Put in place structures to remember the goals.
It could be:
A sticky note on your desk
On a whiteboard in your team area
An automated, daily Slack message in your team channel
If goals are forgotten, it might be a sign that they’re utterly unrealistic.
🙍 Lacking ownership
If we want colleagues to commit to company or team goals, we need to involve our colleagues in creating them.
“When we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome (almost by a factor of five to one),” wrote Dewar and Kellar in The irrational side of change management .
If goals are imposed on your team — try this:
“I appreciate the intention of goal-setting. Could my team and I also have an opportunity to discuss them with you and provide input?”
Now you’ve learned how to set goals 🙌
Achieving goals also requires ideation, selection, execution, and learning, as I covered in last week’s 5-Step Framework For Superior Work Performance.
Next week, we’ll dig into ideation. How can you come up with ideas that soar into the air?
Say hi :)
What challenges or success stories do you have with goal-setting?
I respond to every email 😊