One of the biggest responsibilities leaders repeatedly face within their organisations is goal-setting. Goals are what allow companies to innovate, problem-solve, move forward, and grow in new and exciting ways. Goals also foster team work as they bring employees together around a common denominator, and goals also allow individuals to shine as they contribute their unique set of talents and skills.

But goals accomplish so much more as well. They equip your team with a vision. Vision is essential in moving your team members toward feeling a sense of purpose in the work they do. Everyone wants to feel as if their work is meaningful and significant in some way. With a goal, there’s something employees can move toward, and this vision elevates job satisfaction and feelings of fulfillment.

With so much on the line when it comes to company goals, it’s crucial that leaders understand the 5 essential elements in S.M.A.R.T. and effective goal-setting.

Goals should be:

1. Specific

The more specific and detailed the goal, the better. For instance, instead of setting the general goal that you’d like to see customer acquisition increase this year, a better goal would be this: Accomplish a 30% increase in customer acquisition in the next 6 months. The more detailed goal gives team members an idea of exactly what’s expected of them, allowing them to know when they’re on the right track (acquisition is steadily increasing) or when they’ve fallen short and need to adjust course. On the flip side, general goal-setting with no specifics is like setting someone on a journey without directions, a map, or a GPS. As anyone who’s ever been lost knows, it can be a frustrating experience, which will only lead to lower team morale.

Look over your company’s present goals and be sure to revise them as needed with more details and specifics. Further, reflect on what accomplishing your goal will look like for your company. What is the impact? How does the company improve? What are the benefits and results? Without reflecting on these answers, how will you know when you’ve truly reached your goal?

…general goal-setting with no specifics is like setting someone on a journey without directions, a map, or a GPS.

2. Measurable

There’s another reason goals should be specific and detailed, and that’s because it allows you and your team to measure your results. You should be able to measure your goal in some way so that you know you’re steadily making progress. In the example from above, are there systems in place that will allow you to track customer acquisition over a 6-month period? Regular reviews are essential when teams are striving to accomplish goals. Increasing progress does wonders for boosting team morale, for instance. Reviews will also help you to understand what’s working (so that you can do more of it) and what’s hindering progress (so that you can remove it from the equation).

If you aren’t already doing so, start implementing regular check-ins with your team to discuss all current goals and where those goals stand progress-wise. Such meetings will also foster cohesion among your team members and reinforce the vision that everyone is working toward, which can help to renew waning enthusiasm and get everyone back on track.

3. Attainable

It’s easy for leaders to set big goals, but sometimes we forget to ask ourselves whether or not the goals we want to achieve are actually attainable. There are a number of factors that go into this particular equation, of course. For instance, there’s the matter of time. In the example we’ve been using, a goal was set for a 6-month period. In your own situation, perhaps a certain goal will need a longer timeline in order for it to be attainable.

Sometimes, external forces impact whether or not a goal is attainable. The current state of the market in your particular industry might be going through significant changes that affect your yields. Or perhaps there are changes in your company’s infrastructure that may affect the strength and numbers in your team. Goal-setting in this way becomes strategic in nature. Set aside time to review your current goals and examine the big-picture of the factors that can potentially affect your team’s ability to accomplish these goals. Do you need to make any adjustments?

4. Realistic 

Going along with the tip above, goals also need to be realistic. As a leader, there’ll often be times when you want to reach beyond your grasp, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. All leaders should have vision, creativity, and the capacity to think big and innovate. However, one must also be realistic when it comes to goal-setting.

For instance, when you take a look at your team, do they have the capabilities, resources, and skills to reach a certain company goal? Or will forcing the goal upon them only lead to disengaged employees, job dissatisfaction, decreased confidence, and poor work output? Remember, when employees don’t feel that they have the necessary talent to complete a task, it can be enough to completely shut them off to their current position. It’s essential therefore to take an honest assessment of your talent pool. What are your team’s strengths? What are the areas for improvement? And how can you close that gap moving forward? While you do so, set goals that are realistic for your team. There’s nothing wrong with goals that challenge employees to grow, but make sure the growth occurs in increments, not in overwhelming leaps.

All leaders should have vision, creativity, and the capacity to think big and innovate. However, one must also be realistic when it comes to goal-setting.

5. Time-bound

Research has repeatedly shown that the majority of people work best under deadlines. People respond well to deadlines because meeting them allows them to feel a sense of accomplishment. Further, deadlines motivate us. When we’re unable to keep them, we feel it reflects on our character. After all, no one wants to be the employee in the office who can’t be relied upon or trusted.

Setting deadlines for your company goals, therefore, is an excellent way to motivate employees and move them closer and closer to the finish line. Do all your present goals have time lines? Is there an ‘end date’ that everyone is knowledgeable of and working toward? Be sure to include this time element in your goals, and you’ll no doubt see an increase in work output.


Goal-setting in the workplace is one thing that will most certainly be here to stay. The benefits, after all, are well worth it: a sense of purpose, elevated team spirit, and the opportunity for a company to grow by leaps and bounds. When you use the 5 elements above, you’ll design smarter and more effective goals that will help you and your team members innovate, move forward, and develop like never before.

Close your eyes. Think back to January. Yes, it’s already April so that was over three months ago now.

Were you one of the thousands of people who were keen to make a list of personal and business resolutions for the New Year? But with all your best intentions you ended up limping through February, your goals left forgotten by March and likely to be untouched for the rest of the year?

Resolutions are like opinions. Everyone has at least one, although when it comes to the time for action, we tend to back down at the point of least resistance.

My best advice is to dig deep, find that dust covered piece of paper you decorated with neon highlighters and change your attitude towards resolutions to make them count.

Here are four ways you can reclaim your business goals for the year and ensure they stick for the long term:

1. Choose a focus word

Many creative people in business have chosen to focus on choosing a word to guide them through the ups and downs of the coming year. They are open to opportunities when they use a keyword as a reminder to stay on track when life provides distractions to their goal. Go back over your business plan and choose a word that represents your business, what you are trying to achieve and your end goal.

2. Refine your mission statement

Mission Statements are a familiar concept in most businesses these days, so why not develop your vision further now you have had a few months of business under your belt? Focus on each month or within a particular timeframe. People tend to achieve their short-term goals quicker with a lot of drive and passion as they can envisage the goal line ahead of them. Long-term goals lose momentum if reminders are not set in place to achieve the long -term goals.

3. Visuals, visuals, visuals

Vision boards, framed quotes or mottos hung on office walls, a new logo or tagline all motivate us to stay on the path we have set for the year. Change your office frames each month, print out your mission statement as a constant reminder, in order to think outside the square to propel your business forward.

Why not take a photo of your visual reminder and use it as your phone or computer screen saver? A quick glance at the image will trigger your mind to stay with the goals & KPI’s you have set in place.

4. Remove the guilt

Let go of the disappointment that we feel with resolutions, we all feel terrible when we don’t follow through with our intentions. Start fresh. Remove the guilty feelings associated with not achieving our set goals (which were probably made on Boxing Day, sitting by the pool, cocktail in hand) Beating yourself up about past failures means you wallow or attach your self-worth to unattainable goals. Why do we feel guilt attached to failed New Year’s resolutions when they are set up to fail in the first place?

My own personal focus word for the year is “growth“. To outsiders that word might seem a little vague or a little airy-fairy in relation to measurable business goals. Traditionally we think of our resolutions in terms of SMART (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals for which I am aware works well for many people.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have more specific weekly and daily tasks to focus on but the overall theme of “growth” for my year ahead is a reminder of what I want to achieve and how I plan to get there.  In order to stay on track and facilitate that idea I think, “What can I do today for my business that will grow my client base, my skill set, my customer experience for the future?”

Thinking outside the square in relation to achieving your forgotten resolutions for the year may just keep you on the path to business success.

What word, vision or theme would you choose to represent your business?

lisa bersonLisa Berson is a freelance writer and copywriter based in south-west Western Australia. Lisa wrangles with words in order to give a voice to online business owners who lack the time or know-how to connect and engage with their ideal client. Her words have been seen on Kidspot, Leaders in Heels and My Child/Parenting Express websites. Loves chocolate, not a fan of broad beans. Check her out at


Photo credit: Markus Spiske