Building Leadership

Setting your 2020 business, career, and personal goals

The new year is upon us! It’s time to consider our leadership goals for 2020.

“Goals push us to do better,” says LYNN WHITESELL, managing partner at Harris Whitesell Consulting. “Goals give us focus and direction. Goal setting allows you to take control of your life or company direction and provides you a benchmark for determining whether or not you are succeeding.”

Co-founder of Harris Whitesell Consulting, Whitesell is a mentor for WILMA’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative. Her expertise extends into talent management, leadership solutions, organizational transformation, and executive coaching, so we asked her to provide a few tips on goal setting for 2020.

WILMA: How do you define the major categories of goals?

Whitesell: “Business goals include improving areas such as profitability, customer service, retention, efficiency, and growth; career goals address increasing professional knowledge, improving work relationships, attaining new experiences, and honing leadership skills; and personal goals may include improving family relationships, financial stability, and health and wellness.”

WILMA: How do you focus on which ones are worthy to pursue?

Whitesell: “Goals can be interdependent of each other. For instance, if your family issues go unchecked, your ability to fully engage on the job could be impacted. If your personal development lags, you may lack the skills to be promotable. If your leadership behaviors are subpar, decreased employee engagement may cause you to fail on profitability.

Remember that the role of leaders is two-fold: helping drive near-term performance and ensuring long-term sustainability to prepare for the future.

First, determine what is your BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – that will help you step into your vision of success. What are obstacles towards reaching this goal?

Only set goals that are so meaningful that you would allocate your precious time and valuable energy to it. Create a value statement for each goal which reflects its importance to you.”

WILMA: Should the goals be set on a chronological timetable or some other organizational scheme?

Whitesell: “Goals are written targets. They should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Actionable/Attainable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time-Bound.

Specific goals make it easy to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up. Your goals must have a deadline.

Divide a complex or time-consuming goal into manageable subsections. Incremental wins are a very powerful incentive and create valuable momentum.”

WILMA: Are there metrics that should be used to gauge progress?

Whitesell: “We have all heard the saying ‘What gets measured gets done.’ And, it’s true.

A good rule is to set two key performance metrics for each goal. Include precise amounts (in measures that make sense) and dates (by when exactly) so you can measure your degree of success. In order to show your improvement, you have to know your starting point, so it may be necessary to assess the current performance of your chosen improvement target.

Remember that many seemingly intangible goals can be restated in a measurable way. The unmeasurable ‘aim for happier clients’ may be restated as the easily measured ‘reduce customer complaint calls from 20 to 10 per week.’ Involve your team and your family to help you get there.”

WILMA: How can one deal with setbacks?

Whitesell: “Goal setting is an ongoing activity. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track and set aside time in your calendar to review your goals.

Even with these measures in place, setbacks can occur, but it is important to remain focused and flexible. Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan may change significantly.

Highlight small wins as they occur. Identify what was accomplished, why it’s important, and how the success was achieved.

Frequently review the motivating value statement you set for your goal to help you stay on track.”

WILMA: How can one stay focused throughout the year with so many shiny objects flying by?

Whitesell: “Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an ‘I must do this’ attitude. If you have set a small number of impactful goals that relate only to the highest priorities in your life, you will have an easier time maintaining your focus and momentum toward achievement.

Momentum towards the achievement of a few important goals is what keeps leaders and businesses successful over long periods of time.”

Categories: Women to Watch