By Michael Gunther

This time of year seems to be not only a time for celebration (as we are in the midst of the holiday season), but also a time of reflection on this past year as we’re heading into the New Year. While many of my goals were achieved in 2013, I had numerous others that didn’t come to fruition.

I realize some people don’t plan ahead but instead let life unfold as it will. I’ve never been that way and I’m a firm believer that the odds of greater performance are improved with a clear plan and path to achievement of a specific goal. I think it’s imperative to bring simplicity to this process – I have seen people get overwhelmed in creating a plan they never finish or in getting focused on their next level of personal or professional growth.

Some key elements of successful goal setting, planning, and achievement (in my mind) are the following:

  1. Be sure the goals aren’t too comfortable or too aggressive. Are the items you want to reach pushing you out of your comfort zone? I have often seen individuals who won’t want to put stretch goals out there because it means having to push themselves to new heights. At the same time, I’ve observed individuals develop aggressive goals that, based on their current resources (time, talent, tools), most likely will never be achieved. Strike a balance between being too comfortable and too aggressive – otherwise you will be disappointed in your success, or lack thereof.
  2. Keep the plan simple. Sometimes, the more elaborate the plan the less willing you’ll be to make adjustments as new issues or challenges arise during implementation. You might identify the first five steps to start progressing towards your goals. Or you might want to keep the goals focused on a few key areas. I have a client who has his team focused on three things in 2014: enhancing customer service, creating simplicity in what they do, and improving profitability to the benchmark of the top performers in his industry. His team is now identifying specific goals and basic plans in order to achieve these three things.
  3. Consistent measurement and review. As with any goal or plan, measurements are originally based on the knowledge you had at the beginning of creating your implementation steps. Throughout implementation of plans, new or unforeseen challenges and opportunities might arise. A consistent focus each month on the progress towards your goals with any new plan adjustments will not only keep you and your team focused, but will also lead to higher success rates of goal achievement.
  4. Last, but certainly not least – make the goals purposeful. Why do you want to achieve these goals? Is it for personal skill development, financial gain, impact on your team? Without a clear purpose and/or drive directing why you want to achieve these goals, they’re more likely to falter. Goals driven by purpose will remain at the center of your attention even during the toughest times. This intrinsic motivation is probably one of the more critical factors in truly seeing significant personal or professional goal achievement.

Bottom Line

You’re more likely to achieve something great with a clear purpose and an outlined game plan. Don’t leave things to chance and focus on maybe two or three key goals versus a list of many. You can always add goals to your plate if you have completed the others. Plus, a smaller list will help keep you focused. Truly great performance also comes from pushing yourself and your team moderately outside of your comfort zones.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services.

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