Goal Getting in 2014
By David Lim ( for CFO magazine)
Every few years , I catch up on the research and thinking around the globe on that terrifying exercise (to some) called goal-setting, or for some “New Year resolutions”. For starter, New year resolutions rarely work as the occasions puts unnatural pressures on someone to do something that was probably not so important to them anyway – because if it had been that critical, it wouldn’t have taken them to Dec 31st to decide.
Let’s focus on goal-setting and getting
Tip#1: Set a goal that’s behaviour based and one that is empirically based.
For example, aiming to train and raise the funding to climb Mt Everest within 3 years is a quantitative and easy enough goal. However, understand, like most goals, the actual attainment of the summit of Everest is fraught with uncertainty. The weather, health, timing, external factors can all conspire to deny you the very top. Sometimes, it’s better to set a goal that is behaviour based, for example an improvement of certain habits, or a totally new habit in a specific field. If you can comply with that the results will follow.
So, if your goal is to improve your mountaineering skills as defined by climbing to certain skill level, you will find that whatever happens on Everest tends reflect your overall success in that area of focus ie mountaineering skills. When working on team goals, you will find that setting both a specific goal and one that is based on observable behaviours, the latter will tend to take care of the former. Focusing on an area of development and growth can often pay off far more than just a specific one-dimensional goal. Over-emphasis on goals that are extremely singular can cause distortions, a temptation to “cheat” and so on within a corporate team context. Companies have found that shooting for a profit margin of “X” for a very specific product just forced many sales people to find ways to overcharge and ramp up product pricing so as to meet the singular goal. Focusing on behaviours that support a good profit margin would have brought more holistic approaches to the challenge.
Tip#2: You must really want it .
This may sound silly, but many of us set goals or co-create goals with our teams and bosses where we have zero passion for achieving them. These are often fantasy type goals which are so far beyond our reach that they aren’t even “stretch” goals. Working on these just leads to demoralisation and loss of interest very quickly. Teams should create a quadrant type matrix and plot out high-priority goals on one axis and level of interest on another. You’ll soon see which goals are the high priority ones AND one which also inspire the team. But what about the goals which fall into the Low Inspiration-High Priority area? Your team wil have to figure out how to allocate resources to work on that specific goal. But bear in mind that individuals and organisation rarely grow and thrive by working on their weaknesses; they thrive by building on their strengths so much so that any perceived weaknesses in their game are taken care of by the strengths developed
Tip#3: Create a series of milestones
This helps you assess the amount of energy and commitment going towards achieving the goal. Then celebrate each milestone as representing a step closer to the ultimate goal. This can help reduce burnout in staff and team members. Many think mountains like Everest are climbed in a single push from basecamp. And while that may have been achieved by incredibly lucky and talented mountaineers, they too achieved it by acclimating their bodies on other high peaks in the same season, before arriving at Everest for a push like the one described.
Most normal teams will find the climb to be one where one goes up and down the mountain, placing successively higher camps. By stocking them with life-giving supplies, you prepare for a final push to the top, with the comfort of having acclimated to the high altitude, and having a stock of supplies during the big ascent and final descent.
Tip#4: Be accountable to someone
Uh-huh – it’s as simple as that. How accountable are you to a group or a specific person. Maybe it’s your board of directors, or the CEO. Without being accountable, it’s easy to let goals drift and not be held to account or taken to task. Create an environment where these people to whom you are accountable could be both taskmasters and motivators. The best leaders know when to crack the whip and when to be like the fire beneath your feet; propelling you to new heights.
To that end, I will not wish you good luck in goal getting for 2014; as I believe you will tend to create your own luck by the choices you make.
David Lim is Asia’s Leadership Coach, and best known for leading the 1st Singapore Mt Everest Expedition. Since 1999, he has helped organizations build teams and grow leaders. Send him a note today at to subscribe to a no-cost leadership e-newsletter.