Setting good company goals is one of the most important--and one of the most challenging--things a leader must do in his or her company. Without goals, it's impossible to drive strategic change and significant innovation on your products and services. Without goals, you are lost at sea and at the whim of the currents so to speak.

There are many strategies and acronyms for goal setting in companies. Many of them are good, some are less so. While some teams have used the classic SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) to get good results, I have found these to be overly complicated. I've seen too many teams spend hours contorting themselves to make their goals fit this model with little to no benefit after doing so.

Many times I see teams develop elaborate and complex goal-setting systems and processes, only to find out later that they haven't followed through with the implementation and they have abandoned their plans altogether. This goal neglect leaves employees feeling frustrated and disappointed.

Instead, the best leadership teams I've worked with have made sure their goals include these three simple things to drive results consistently:

1. Make your company goals measurable.

Overly-general goals do not work well; specificity is the name of the goal game. The best way to make a goal specific is to define how you'll measure success to determine whether it is completed or not. Without specificity, you create confusion: your people will be working towards different outcomes based on their own interpretations.

When setting goals I have people create a definition of done. I ask, "if we pull some random person off the street, what instructions would I give them to confirm that a goal is achieved or missed?" Define the tool they would use to measure success. The point is to leave no doubt whether a goal is reached or not. Often this exercise will drastically change a goal for the better.

2. Make your company goals compelling to everyone on the team.

One of the biggest deficiencies of SMART goals is that a goal can be each of those letters and still be utterly boring. Goals need to be exciting, fun, and maybe a little scary to drive engagement.

People want to find meaning in their work. Goals that are not compelling will not get the investment and the attention they need to be achieved.

One of the best ways to make your goals more compelling is to add "so that" to the end of the goal. Articulate the benefit of achieving the goal. For example, you can turn "hire a full time marketing person" to "hire a full time marketing person so that we can increase leads and grow the business." Articulating the why creates motivation.

3. Align your company goals with your strategic priorities.

Finally, great goals need to be aligned with a company's strategic priorities. This ensures that your goals are stacking up to move the needle on the growth and the development of the business. Without considering alignment, goals can end up working against each other and competing for resources. Don't create goals that pull in different directions.

Making goals measurable, compelling, and aligned with your strategic objectives greatly increases the chance that these goals are realized and accomplished.

Published on: Jul 27, 2017