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Creativity Is Human.

By: Geno Cutolo, CEO

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra

Have you ever driven across the country? How hard would it be to get from New York to California if there weren’t any road signs or highway markings? There’s no telling where you’d end up! Goal setting is a lot like creating a road map to chart your plan. And just like taking a long road trip, it’s important to determine where you start and where you want to end up.

In theory, goal setting is simple. It’s a decision to accomplish something. But it’s one thing to set a goal — and it’s another to make that goal a reality.

Recently, I challenged our company to hit a new goal — and it’s a big one! Reaching this goal would grow our business and extend our company’s vision to change the world — one life, one job, one community at a time. There’s been a lot of talk within our teams about the goal setting process, so I wanted to share some of my top tips for setting (and crushing!) organizational, team, and individual goals:

Start with Why

Even when you know what you hope to achieve and how you can accomplish it, you’ll probably fall short if you don’t identify why this is a goal in the first place. That’s why I want to challenge you to start with the “why.” Why are you working toward this goal? Why is it meaningful to you as an individual? To your team? To your company?

Establishing the “why” makes your goal more compelling and creates a stronger sense of purpose. If you know the purpose behind the goal, you’re more likely to embrace it. It also makes you more informed. And when you’re more informed, you’re better equipped to make decisions.

When it comes to setting organizational goals, leaders need to communicate the company’s “why” and encourage their team members to identify how this “why” impacts them, which will create a stronger connection to the overarching company goal. “Why” is what inspires us.

Find a Method

While it’s important to know your business goals (and the reasons behind them), it’s also important to identify a strategy. After all, there are a number of ways to reach the same destination, and each course of action will be dependent on the resources and needs of your organization.

Building a strategy begins by breaking down the goal. You’ve probably heard that every goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive. Yes, I’m referring to SMART. Here’s a quick refresher of this acronym:

  • Specific drills down on what is to be accomplished, why it’s important, and who will be involved with the goal or activity itself.
  • Measureable is the means of tracking progress.
  • Achievable relates to whether the goal is realistic — even if the person has to stretch his or her abilities.
  • Relevant focuses on making sure the goal matches and matters to the individual, the team, and the company.
  • Time-sensitive ties the goal to a realistic target date, providing momentum and preventing other tasks from taking precedence.

Setting SMART goals has become standard practice. But you may find yourself in a situation where you need an alternative — perhaps one that is CLEAR.

The CLEAR method is most appropriate for a company in need of greater agility, where the staff must take both a proactive and reactive approach to business. If you’re not familiar with CLEAR, it stands for:

  • Collaborative is the first step and includes establishing goals that encourage people to work together on a task or project.
  • Limited is somewhat similar to “time-sensitive,” except the idea is to shorten the duration and to control the scope.
  • Emotional makes sure the goal connects to the individual, mining personal interests and energizing his or her contributions.
  • Appreciable is the act of breaking down larger goals into smaller ones with the intent of speeding up and “un-complicating” the process.
  • Refinable brings a caveat to the goal in that it can be modified if necessary. The goal itself is still critical, but it may not look exactly as expected should situations change.

The thing I like most about the CLEAR method is the inclusion of “refinable.” I like that this method encourages teams to ask questions like: Are the team’s activities still aligned with the strategy of the company? Does an employee’s current responsibilities still support the team’s goals?

This method gives everyone an opportunity to course correct as needed. Because it’s true what they say, the only thing constant is change.

Break Down Team & Individual Goals

Regardless of whether you use SMART, CLEAR, or another method to break down your goal, it’s critical to ensure individual and team goals align with the organizational goals.

So, how exactly do you go about this?

As a child I loved solving mazes, some extremely complex, navigating from point A to point Z. One day, I discovered it was much easier to navigate the most difficult mazes when I started at point Z and ended at point A. In other words, beginning with the end in mind. Similar to my maze strategy, I recommend breaking your goal down into smaller chunks by working backward from the objective. What needs to happen in order to get from point Z to Y to X and so on? By starting from the ultimate goal, you can determine what preceding action must occur within your team. From that action, you’ll work backward identifying each previous action until you reach the first step.

With this road map, you’ll reverse course and work from start to finish, looking for potential anchor projects. These will serve as milestone goals to ensure that the team maintains alignment with the main objective.

From there, you can break down the team goals into individual goals. Instead of handing out a list of tasks, ask each team member to reflect on his or her professional goals and then discuss what can be done, within the parameters of the team goals, to help him or her advance in that direction. Putting people in control of their own futures is much more motivating than setting demands.

Ultimately, everyone in the organization should understand exactly how his or her goals contribute to the team goals and how the team goals contribute to the goal of the organization. By the end, every team member should be able to complete this statement:

Our company’s goal is to _____________. My team’s contribution to this goal is _____________, while my role is to _____________.

Get There

Here’s the thing, there will always be many paths to the same destination. The goal is to provide your team with a point of origin, an ultimate destination, and some context on how to get there. The rest, really, is up to each team member. A clear vision of the future (not to mention, a little accountability) will take you far!

Stay focused on the plan, follow the timeline, remain energized — and crush your goals!