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How to set goals and meet them


First set the goal, then create and plan for achieving it and then execute the action points. Robert Kelsey has a strategy for all of this. Read on...
Not so fast. Each area requires proper thought if it's to provide effective support for the others. This is even the case for the objectives. For instance, one of the key problems with setting goals is the need to set "our goals" – goals that reflect our true values. Most people or teams set goals based on external influences or to conform to the expectations of others – both of which significantly reduces the chances of success. Yet only when we are following a path that conforms to our true values – personally or collectively – can we be at our most effective.
That said, many of us have yet to fully explore our true values, which should be the first exercise in any campaign: what do we really want to achieve? This requires us to write our own constitution – a founding document or mission statement that, like the US Constitution, sets out what we stand for. Instead of "We the People" it should begin "I John Smith" or "We the north-west sales team for John's Electrics" and continue to state our true values. My own constitution states I should be a strong mentor to my children and a good husband. It states I should seek to create a legacy from my work and that I should be viewed, by others, as having worth.
"Most people or teams set goals based on external influences or to conform to the expectations of others – both of which significantly reduces the chances of success."
Our constitution is important because, from here, we can indulge ourselves in the second major goal-setting exercise: visualisation. We should pick a distant timeline – five years minimum but preferably 10. And we should close our eyes and imagine ourselves at that point. This can work for teams as much as individuals, although each member needs to be fully onboard – or else they need to first do the exercises individually and work out where they belong, and find a way of getting on that path (which will hopefully prevent them disrupting the people on this one).
Sorry, the visualisation exercise will take a while. Every detail must be visualised: office, people, clothes, cars, home, partners – the lot. In detail. Then we need to do the whole exercise again – this time halving the timeframe. If our timeframe was 10 years, we now need to visualise the five year milestone. Where do we need to be in order to meet the 10 year goals? Then the two year, and one year exercises need to be completed – as well as the six month, three month, one month, one week and – yes – tomorrow. Finally, what can we do now in order to prepare for tomorrow? In fact, this bit's obvious – we need to write it all down using positive and present-tense language. And we need to make sure it makes sense – that the five-year is connected to the 10-year and so on.
With our true goals set we now have a strong path ahead, giving us focus and good judgement (every decision being based on nothing but progress along the path). Yet we now need to execute, and this requires a strategy. Many people struggle with the concept of a strategy, mixing it up with either objectives or tactics. In reality, it is no more than the bridge between the objectives and the tactics – making sure the individual tactics are co-ordinated and aimed at meeting the objectives.
For instance, in a war the goal is victory and the tactics will be various forms of engagement with the enemy. But the strategy co-ordinates the tactics based on what's achievable given the strengths and weaknesses of both us and the opposition – helping us decide, perhaps, between a full-on invasion or a guerrilla war (both different strategies supporting our goal). How do we gauge this? By undertaking a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). This is a personal exercise – and we need to be honest with ourselves if we are to be at our most effective.
"We need to be honest with ourselves if we are to be at our most effective."
Which brings us to tactics – the strategy's executable action points. Some thoughts on tactics:
  • Tactics are mostly action points – contact this person, write this letter, make that phone call, get that meeting. But they can also be developmental: develop this skill, acquire that knowledge etc
  • Tactics can be tiny steps or giant leaps. Giant leaps are rare, however, and can often move you to the wrong place. In fact, where possible, giant leaps should be converted into a series of tiny steps that produce a series of small victories
  • Planned action points need to involve both the next steps and the second series of steps after the first milestones have been reached
  • Immediate tactics should focus on your strengths while medium-term tactics can look towards overcoming your weaknesses
  • Execution (rather than developmental) tactics are only for where we have the strength to act. Bold leaps based purely on bravado are pointless, potentially-wasteful and should be avoided
  • Don't execute tactics on too many fronts. Concentrate energies in one place in order to gain small victories. And then move on
  • Work out the cost (in every respect) of each tactic beforehand and be prepared to pay it. Balking at the cost halfway through is the quickest way to derail an entire campaign
  • Don't start a tactic without a clear idea of its outcome, and focus purely on that outcome – most alternative outcomes will, in reality, be setbacks
  • But be flexible. You may have to change tactics quickly when outcomes do not go as planned. As the Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Molke said: "No plan survives contact with the enemy".
Finally, remember to keep the objectives, the strategy and the tactics separate. If a tactic doesn't work, abandon it but don't change the strategy. Only after repeated tactical failures should the strategy be questioned. And only after repeated strategic failures should we reassess our objectives. The war will be won – it is just a question of how.
Have you registered for our free webinar? 'The Challenge and the Opportunity for Learning Professionals' takes place on 5 May and is hosted by Donald Taylor, chairman of the IITT and speaker at TZ Live.
Register for it here.
Robert Kelsey's book 'What’s Stopping You? Why Smart People Don’t Always Reach Their Potential and How You Can' is published by Capstone

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