Do Not Forget to Do This When You Turn to Setting Your 2019 Goals

Now that the Christmas season is behind us, many leaders will be turning their sights to goal setting for 2019.

A noble cause, to be sure.

Goals can help leaders:

  1. Stay focused on priorities.

  2. Ensure they are challenging themselves.

  3. Set milestones to measure progress.

And, according to the literature on goal setting theory:

  1. Give the leader a great deal of self-confidence in accomplishing the objectives.

If you are in need of some deep thinking time to better understand what your goals should be, you can download my Minimalist’s Guide to a 4-Hour Personal Leadership Retreat by clicking here. This guide is intended to give you some structure for a creative thinking process as you consider what you want to put the emphasis on in your life this year.


A Quick Story

A past client called me recently after being “downsized” from his organization. As we talked about his situation, he told me “Last time I took a job it was because it was convenient. I didn’t have to move and I knew I could do the work. I was not passionate about the work, but I knew I could do it.”

As we talked about what he wanted to do in this next transition he was much more clear and principled. “I want something where I can use my skills as a leader, doing what I am most passionate about. It really doesn’t matter where it it is or necessarily what industry it is in. If it is something I love getting up to do, that is what I am looking for.”

As I hung up the phone from talking to him I could really tell the difference between his first transition and this one. 

He was following his heart and he was principled in his quest.

Consider examining your principles prior to goal setting

One of my favorite leadership quotes of all time is from the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”

I think many leaders adopt this philosophy as a reason for goal setting, to give themselves some priorities on what they want to accomplish in a given year.

The problem is that we as leaders can often set goals that will get things done, but are not goals we truly believe in or are not important to us at all.

For example, I can set a goal to shoot an 80 for 18 holes in golf, but if I do not believe it is possible because I currently shoot 95, then what good is having the goal? Sure, it is a goal, but it is not principled.

What is a principle?

As I researched this question a few years ago for a leadership workshop I led, here is what the literature said about principles.  Most definitions include aspects of the following:

  • An accepted or professed rule of action, or a doctrine for conduct.

  • A truth that can be followed.

  • A guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct.

In summary, a principle is some type of relevant, moral, accepted standard that the leader believes in which guides their underlying behavior.

Your principles inform your development goals

If this idea of having a principle inform a goal is new to you, let me give you some steps you can use to create a principle that supports a behavior that you can then set a goal around.

  1. Find agreement and define the dimension you are setting a goal around.

    For example, if I want to improve my coaching skills as a goal, I would make sure that coaching is a leadership behavior and then give myself a definition for what coaching means to me.

    Coaching: An interaction between a coach and a coachee that unlocks the full potential of the person being coached. In a coaching relationships, the coachee is transformed in both belief and behavior in an encouraging, supportive manner.

  2. The next step in the process is to think about the Dominant Ideas that surround the leadership dimension. Ask yourself questions like:

    1. What are the important skills that support this behavior?

    2. How do I want my followers to feel when I am using this leadership dimension?

    3. Why is this dimension important to me as a leader?

  3. After you have answered these question then ask yourself:

    What does being a “good” coach (in this case) look like and how is that different from being a “great” coach?

    The idea is to let go of any outcomes here and to focus on quality inputs.  Resist the temptation to say that a great coach obtains a maximum bonus payout at the end of the year; or that a great coach wins championships. Instead, focus more on the behaviors of what a great coach actually does. Things like building rapport, attuning, and listening skill.

  4. Finally, go back and review these three steps and just sit and think about them. Meditate on them so that the primary ideas become really clear to you. After some time, write a single sentence that describes the principle so that it represents what your idea or belief is in coaching.

    Example: Create a safe environment for discussions where the coachee feels valued and heard, supported and challenged, and knows I have their best interest in mind.

The challenge I have for you as you are thinking about your goals for 2019 is to not only think about what you want to get done, but also why this goal is so important to you and how you want to go about reaching it.

As you think about the why and the how, I do hope you will become a principle centered leader as you set and attain your goals.