Is Goal Setting Still As Valuable Today?

Following on from a previous article on great questions to ask yourself as a leader, one I often get asked is about goal setting.

Is it still relevant? Why doesn’t it seem to work? Why do I run out of steam? How can I make it compelling?


Let’s start at the beginning. Yes goals work.  It’s a key leadership skill you must develop.

As humans we are ‘wired’ to seek success and having a goal helps that process. That is how the world of business; that we are all part of works. Every organisation I work with has a revenue goal or they wouldn’t be in business.

Goal setting is still accepted as one of the most valid management tools when it comes to motivation and making things happen, particularly when you are managing a team; virtually or not.

So much so there are enumerable ‘formulas’ designed around setting goals, including the management by objectives system many of us are familiar with.


If you are interested in the history of goal setting and its link to business performance check out Edwin Locke and Gary Latham’s work. Collectively they identified the links between difficulty, clarity and achievement. The more specific and challenging the goal the more likely it is to be achieved; within logical boundaries and specific time frames. A brand new employee might aspire to be the M.D. and that is absolutely possible though, unlikely to happen in her first year of employment.

This is still the beauty of SMART goals. Organisations vary in their use of the A and R word.  The most popular A words that I experience are; achievable, attainable or attractive. All have their place depending on the organisation. R can be taken as realistic or relevant.


One mistake that many people make, when it comes to goals and their achievement is lack of clarity. Add into this the need to make their goals challenging without being de- motivating and that is where issues often start.

Here is an idea; start small. Break goals down into smaller chunks and then help your team create the smaller action plans around achievement. That way the goal doesn’t become a huge elephant in the room that no one talks about. Current opinion suggests making the initial actions so small they seem inconsequential. Let’s explore an example outside of the work place. Here is something many of us can relate too; health and fitness.

A good friend of mine has set a goal of running a half marathon. Now she is pretty fit and ran sub 2 hours 30; though this was six years ago. If she was running the event next week she would struggle as exercise has not been on her agenda since. Anyone reading this might suggest alternating walking and running as a first step, then combining that with some gym work and some intermediate mile stones like, running for 30 minutes non-stop. You would probably also offer some advice about nutrition. All logical and sensible; yet when it comes to our business goals this process is often lacking.

Goals are achieved by taking a series of small steps consistently. High achievers in the team struggle with this concept yet it’s proven to be the best approach to getting results.

Next steps? Think about one of your goals. First run it through the SMART system. Is it clear enough? What is the specific action steps needed? If it is a longer term goal what are the smaller goals in-between? Then map out a plan and start.


Until next time,

Julia CarterJulia

Julia Carter

Julia Carter

Julia Carter