THREE TYPES OF GOALS
Todd Dewett | December 19, 2018
An excerpt from The Little Black Book of Leadership! Get your copy here: http://www.drdewett.com/books/
Let’s keep it simple and consider three major types of goals: performance goals, leadership goals, and life goals. The first is about using your skills to create great work. The second is about connecting effectively with people to enable the creation of great work. The last one is about applying these ideas to life outside of work.
More specifically, performance goals are focused on the actual tasks and projects to be completed. They concern your work accomplishments over a specific time period. These might refer to functional areas of the business (e.g., accounting), certain tasks or processes (e.g. accounts payable within accounting or new product development across multiple functions), or levels of the hierarchy (e.g., becoming a Marketing Manager).
From a sequential perspective, professionals typically focus their career first on becoming some type of a credible functional specialist (e.g., financial analyst) while tackling a series of increasingly challenging task and process goals (e.g., acquiring strong capital budgeting and investor relations skills), while slowly mapping out a path towards a higher level (e.g., becoming the Vice President of Finance).
Your approach to how long each phase lasts depends entirely on your personal interests, need for achievement, and tolerance for stress. There is no perfect path. However, when trying to define your path forward, it is always important to understand the common practices and precedents in your vocation and your organization. These are your reference points that allow you to understand how your desired path compares to the norm experienced by others. You have to make this social comparison in order to determine whether your chosen path is too safe, reasonable, or somewhat audacious.
Next, we have leadership goals. This refers to goals focused on the people skills side of the organizational equation – the areas of professional expertise and knowledge that either help or hurt your pursuit of performance goals. To be clear, a leadership goal is about targeting a specific leadership skill area, not a particular leadership level. This area of professional skills is the main focus of this book. It includes self-improvement skills, effective communication, goal setting, problem solving and decision-making, motivating others, and so on.
As your career progresses, leadership-related goals will quickly begin to dominate your development. Don’t get me wrong – performance goals matter immensely, but they are fairly easy to articulate (e.g., increase sales by 10%, improve cycle time by 15%, double the retention rate). On the other hand, it’s more difficult to identify people skills for goal setting, tougher to set the correct goal, tougher to collect data, and thus ultimately tougher to measure progress. Nonetheless, the research is clear – the key to managerial or executive level success increasingly depends on your leadership skills, not technical acumen.
Once you and / or your supervisor, coach, or mentor have identified a skill area, commit to a plan that will allow you to build that skill. This might include on the job work or training, coaching, classroom training, online courses, workshops, books and blogs, certifications, etc. It’s time to stretch and grow.
Finally, let’s consider life goals. This concerns a hugely important topic: your long-term happiness. What good is success at work without success in life? Life goals include major financial milestones, leisure pursuits, civic participation, volunteering, travels and geographical preferences, family and relationship goals, and any other important life matters you sincerely wish to address.
Your life goals should be designed to ensure that you are as healthy and happy as possible after having worked so hard to achieve your performance and leadership goals. That’s why I
have to insist on one particular life goal: career “fit.” It’s mandatory. You can survive life getting a paycheck for something you merely tolerate if you want to, but the smart people work hard to align their work with their skills, interests, and passions. Unfortunately, too many people pursue occupations based on the desires and beliefs of others – do not be like them!