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How Can You Move Without a Goal?

GoalsNo, the title is not an insightful quote from Jack Welch or Steve Jobs, or even Confucius - it's a line from a song by one of my all-time favorite bands Dinosaur Jr . I love well-written music lyrics the way that I imagine some people appreciate poetry. The song I quoted in the title, Thumb , is about 20 years old but has always resonated with me and the line becomes more pertinent every year.

Lao-Tzu wrote the famous quote " a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step", but if you don't know where you are going (your goal) then how do you know which direction to take that step?

Yet people and companies regularly take steps not knowing if they are going in the right direction or what their destination is. Or they confuse tasks or objectives with goals (your goal is not to get an appointment, your goal is to get the sale), or the goal is so vague you don't know if you hit it (I'm going to lose weight this year - how much? for how long?). In order for you to be sure you are heading in the right direction, you need to have specific quantifiable goals, with a timeline, that you can work towards every day.

In essence that's what strategic planning is - setting goals and working backwards to identify the tasks you need to get there. And the great thing about strategic planning and goal setting is that it works in just about any situation, from running a business, to being a sales rep or recruiter, to finding a job, even to personal tasks such as losing weight or saving for college or retirement. Here are a couple tips to get you started on reaching your goals.

  • As Stephen Covey says, start with the end in mind - And as Dinosaur Jr. implied, you need a goal before you can move. Ask yourself "what am I trying to accomplish?". Why do you want to grow your business? Why are you thinking about going back to school? What do you want to accomplish with landing a new job? There are no right answers for the above questions, but they have a significant impact on how you go about getting there.
  • Make sure your goals are measurable - They should be quantifiable and with a due date. Increase revenue in 2011 by 10% is a goal that is both measurable (revenue increase of 10%) and has a due date (December 31, 20xx). Secure a senior business analyst or equivalent position in the financial services industry by June is another example of a specific goal with a timeline. This gives you something to measure your progress to and to focus your efforts towards.
  • Differentiate between long-term and short-term goals, but make them consistent - You might want to sell your business in ten years for $10 million, which would be a long-term goal. In the meantime your short-term goals need to support your long-term goal. If your industry's company valuations are based on gross profit, then you don't want your annual growth goals to be based purely on revenue.
  • Don't overwhelm yourself - Sure it seems great to have a list of 10 goals or even more, but what tends to happen is that your attention is too divided or in some cases you are overwhelmed with trying to accomplish too much. Identify one or two long-term goals and a few short-term goals that help you achieve them. When I first became president of the HR association a few years back, I received a great piece of advice from someone - pick two goals for your presidency, no more, no less. That allowed me to focus my energy on what was really important and ensure I accomplished them.

This is a timely topic in December when many new year's resolutions are being set, but goal setting and strategic planning can and should be done throughout the year. So before you start out on that thousand-mile journey, take some time to think about where think that journey should end up. Then you'll be ready to move with a goal.


Unsure where to begin with setting sales goals?  Use our free tool, the Sales Goals Worksheet.

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