Every new year, millions of Americans make plans and resolutions, among a plethora of short and long term goals, in an attempt to take advantage of a fresh and forgiving start. The beginning of the year is spent planning and envisioning the months to come from a hopeful, idyllic perspective (for the most part).
The same goes in the business world. The idealized start of the year makes us challenge ourselves and aim higher than before. While it’s great to be ambitious, being too ambitious and overzealous is a slippery slope to becoming overwhelmed and off-target.
So, while you are planning the year to come and mapping your short and long-term goals, consider these six common mistakes that leaders tend to make when goal setting and avoid them at all costs!
- Setting unrealistic goals. We’re all guilty of this at some time or another, and usually, it happens at the start of a new year. Most new year personal goals tend to revolve around either fitness or finances, and we set impractical and usually unachievable benchmarks for ourselves. The same goes when we’re in our work setting. As a leader, you feel compelled to take on the world and start the year with the best intentions, but at the end of the day, you must be able to achieve the goal to reap the benefit. If goals are outlandish and practically impossible, chances are they won’t be met. That’s not to say not to challenge yourself, just make sure you consider all the factors that are riding on the success of the goal.
- Setting too many goals. Just like setting unrealistic goals, setting too many can be a huge problem, and frankly just a distraction. I’m a big fan of the saying “a jack of all trades is in expert in nothing” and this applies well here. If you try to take on too many goals, you aren’t able to fully concentrate on the most important ones. Don’t lose intensity for yourself and your team by setting a vast amount of goals. Focus on 2 to 4 crucial goals, and give them all of your attention.
- Goal abandonment. If you make mistakes 1 and 2, goal abandonment is highly possible. Often we get started working to achieve our unrealistic list of goals, only to later realize we can’t handle it. This is when goals tend to fall off the radar and collect dust. Don’t make mistakes one and two, or mistake three is sure to follow.
- Setting vague and far-off goals. To properly goal set, you have to plan thoroughly to ensure you do what it takes to succeed. Sometimes we set vague goals that don’t have a plan and aren’t detailed, making them easy to lose track of. Similarly, setting long-term goals that go way too far into the future can be neglected as well. Don’t be vague, be specific! About what your goals are, how you’ll accomplish them, and set a realistic timeline. Without doing so, it’s easy for that goal to fall off the radar.
- Focusing on immediate needs. Sometimes we misjudge our goals based on what’s critical in the moment, but that isn’t really what goal-setting is about. Goal setting should be about achieving something important that will take thought, preparation, and manpower. Many times, leaders tend to focus on what’s needed immediately rather than what’s truly the most important. Little things can seem like big things when you’re under time pressure. Try to step back, look at the big picture, and focus on what’s the most important.
- Thinking solely about means, not ends. During the planning process, every part of the goal setting operation is important. We tend to focus mostly on what the goal is, and how/when it’ll be achieved, forgetting completely about what the expected and intended outcome will be. Don’t let the means overshadow the ends. Keep the ends in perspective to propel the means instead.
If you’re guilty of making these six mistakes, don’t worry too much because you aren’t alone. But to be the most successful with the least amount of stress, it’s crucial to make sure your goals are important, measurable, practical, and timely. Good luck with the planning for the year 2016, we wish you prosperity, happiness, and great goal-setting!