2021 Goal Setting
Happy 2021 and I hope the year brings you lots of joy and success. Since it’s the beginning of the year, it’s, you know, that time of year to set some goals for yourself. For those of you at the back, I can hear your groans from here! While many people have given up on even setting New Year’s Resolutions – I’m not too hot on them myself – I’m more thinking of the “what do I want to have achieved during the year”-type goals rather than “what change am I going to make TODAY!” For those of you all excited about your new goals, excellent! It’s always good to have something to aim for. Regardless of where you fall on the new year – new goals spectrum, one thing we all have in common is the need to keep up our motivation. So I thought I’d share the Levels of Success tool, that many coaches use in their one-to-one work, with you.
Success and Motivation
If you’ve read my book, SMART Objective Setting for Managers, you’ll know that when it comes to setting SMART goals, it’s an awful lot easier to set a SMART goal for yourself than when you’re setting a joint goal with someone else. Little things like “communication”, “assumptions” and “expectations” tend to get in the way of setting joint goals. However, as pointed out in the book, when setting your own goals, while you know exactly what you mean by “do X” or “achieving Y”, there’s another little thing called “motivation” that can sometimes get in our way. Not only can it get in our way, it can also seriously undermine our self-confidence. Here’s where Levels of Success slot in.
When we set ourselves goals, we often set a goal that, while it is possible to be achieved, might not be fully in our control to achieve it. Take Alex, for example. During 2021, Alex is determined to change jobs and is preparing for interviews. As part of preparing, I asked Alex* what the goal of the interview was and the response was “to get the job”. While this is an obvious goal, what happens if Alex doesn’t succeed? What will the knock-on impact to the goal of “changing jobs” be? If Alex is defining “success” as “getting the job” and, for a myriad of reasons that may be within or outside of Alex’s control, he doesn’t get the job, how will Alex pick himself up and go again? After all, based on his definition of success, he has failed.
Levels of Success
Here’s where Levels of Success come in. By asking Alex to define his minimum, ideal and middle-of-the-road levels of success, it completely changes the dynamics of what success looks like. Here are some examples of what the different levels of success could look like when going for an interview:
Minimum Level of Success Examples
- Walk out of the interview feeling he left nothing on the table (i.e., he feels he did his best and couldn’t have done any more)
- Gains interview experience, as it’s been a while, and takes away learning points to apply in next interview
- Have a sense of this type of role and/or organisation is the right one for him
- Knows that this isn’t the right type of role and/or organisation for him
Medium Level of Success Examples
- Get called back for a second round interview (or stage II of interview process)
- Have applied learning from previous interviews and improve on them
- Is offered the job at a salary of xxx and decent benefits
- Gets a good sense of whether the role/organisation is a good fit or not for him and if it is, is offered the job
- If the role/organisation isn’t a good fit, takes away some helpful insights as to what is and isn’t a good fit for him
- Is in the last two candidates for the role
Ideal Level of Success Examples
- Gets offered the job with yyy salary and fantastic benefits such as…
- Gets offered the job, with a great package, and he feels it’s a good fit for him
- Gets offered the job with a good package and is able to squeeze in a two-week break between job
- Gets offered job and has huge amount of flexibility of setting own hours
Alex identifies his different levels of success, as highlighted in the bold/italic points above. Looking at the minimum level of success, we can see that they are all within Alex’s control. If he prepares well and takes it seriously, there’s no reason he shouldn’t achieve his minimum level of success. The important thing here is, even if he doesn’t succeed in getting the job, it doesn’t derail his overall goal to change jobs, as he has succeeded in meeting his minimum level of success. By defining it, it allows him to recognise the level of success he did achieve while also preparing him to making changes for the next time, so increasing the likelihood of his success at the next interview.
What happens if Alex hadn’t defined his levels of success and was offered the job at XXX salary and decent benefits? If his ideal level of success was to get an amazing offer, he might still end up demotivated because the offer he was made wasn’t “good enough”, even though he was offered the job. Worse still, he might not even recognise why he’s actually demotivated by getting something he wanted! By defining his levels of success, Alex would be able to recognise that, while it might not be the “absolute best outcome ever”, it goes a good stretch of the way and he can make an informed decision as to whether to take it or hold out for a similar role with a better package.
Set Your Levels of Success
So, you’ve identified and/or set out the goals you’d like to achieve during 2021. Now set out your levels of success and maintain your motivation throughout 2021 and remember, the best way to predict the future is to create it.
I’d love to hear what your goals are and what levels of success you set yourself, so feel free to share them in the comments below. It would be much appreciated if you could like and share this post with people you think would find it of use.
Irial O’Farrell is the Change Management Institute’s first Accredited Master in Change Management in Ireland and an expert in Organisation Design, Performance and Leadership. She is author of SMART Objective Setting for Managers and Values – Not Just for the Office Wall Plaque: How Personal and Company Values Intersect.
*I have never coached an “Alex” and the story is based on the typical I’m not breaking any client confidentiality with this story.