We all recognise the arrival of the New Year as a time to make positive change – gyms are busier, alcohol consumption is lower and cigarette sales plummet. A large number of us will make a New Year’s resolution, but how many of us will take the time to set work-related goals? And how successful can we hope to be when only around 8% of us will achieve our New Year’s resolutions? (Research by University of Scranton)
The main reason people set personal goals (such as eating more healthily) and not work-related goals is because we recognise that changes to our personal lives can only be driven by us. If we want to do more exercise, for example, only we can make that happen. With work-related goals, however, accountability is often shared, as we rest safe in the knowledge that goal-setting activities will, inevitably, be driven at some point by our line managers.
Added to that the fact that it’s really just become the norm to discuss and set New Year’s resolutions every January. Throw in the bombardment of ads for healthier foods, gym memberships, weight-loss programmes that we’re subjected to from New Year’s Day onwards (making us all feel that little bit guiltier), it’s no wonder so many of us decide to hop on the resolution bandwagon. But this ‘culture of change’ that seems to exist uniquely at the beginning of the year, is not reflected in the same way in the workplace. Of course, companies have a reasonable expectation on their employees that goal-setting activities should take place throughout the year, so there’s not the need to create such a focus around January specifically. But January is actually the perfect time for people to be thinking about setting work-related goals for 3 very good reasons:
- Given the culture of change that exists around the beginning of January, people are generally more open, and less resistant, to change.
- It provides a natural and logical starting point – consciously or not, the 1st January marks a beginning, a fresh start, a time for great change. Out with the old, in with the new!
- People tend to enjoy some time off over the Christmas period and return to work refreshed and with a renewed enthusiasm and motivation.
How to ensure you achieve your goals
We already know that only 8% of us will achieve our New Year’s resolutions, so what can we do differently with our work-related goals, to ensure we are successful?
Firstly, it’s important to note the difference between ‘resolutions’ and ‘goals’. The word resolution suggests a desire, a nicety, “I’d like to”. The word goal, on the other hand, suggests a more determined thought process, “I will”, rather than “I’d like to”.
The language used in relation to resolutions versus goals, also tends to be more ambiguous. For example; “I will eat more healthily”, “drink less alcohol”, “get fitter” are all vague in their intent – how will you eat more healthily, how much less alcohol will you drink, how much fitter will you get? This lack of clarity makes it almost impossible to measure progress and, therefore, much easier for the resolution to fall by the wayside. Conversely, the language used in relation to goals tends to be much more specific.
- My first tip on ensuring you achieve your goals is to ensure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals. Rarely when people make New Year’s resolutions, do they put in place detailed action plans to ensure they stay on track and achieve their goals (one of the main reasons so many fail). Work-related goals, on the other hand, are almost always SMART in nature. This instantly accelerates the chances of success. No matter how well-intentioned a goal, if you don’t know exactly what you need to do to achieve that goal, step by step, when you need to complete it by and how you will measure whether or not you’ve been successful, you’re simply setting yourself up for failure.
- Don’t set too many goals. This is another common trap people fall into – setting too many goals, which typically results in the abandonment of most, if not all, of the goals, as the individual struggles to prioritise. Instead, focus on 1 or 2 important goals at a time, you are far more likely to achieve them.
- Share your goals. One of the key findings from research on goal setting is that goal achievement heightens significantly when goals are shared. Quite simply, just telling somebody else what your goal is, increases the chances that you will achieve it. In the workplace, telling your line manager, a coach or mentor not only increases accountability, but it also provides you with a point of support when you come across challenges along the way.
- Don’t let setbacks send you off course. Most things worth having require considerable effort to achieve them. Being realistic from the outset and recognising that setbacks are highly likely will leave you better equipped for dealing with those challenges. After all, if it were that easy, you would probably have already done it. Don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong, adjust the plan if you need to, just keep focussed on that end goal.
- Reinforce the why. To help you stay on track, take the time to frequently remind yourself of why the goals is so important to you and what benefits you will see as a result of achieving it. This is especially important in helping you carry on in the face of setbacks, but also just ensures the goal stays front of mind and receives the focus it deserves.
If you haven’t already done so, take the opportunity this January to set yourself a work-related goal. Remember to make it SMART and to share it with your line manager/coach/mentor/colleagues.
If you’d like to talk to Salestrong about 1-2-1 coaching, how we can help you or your team improve their goal-setting activities, or any of our other services, please give us a call on 01778 382733, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or head to our Contact page and leave us your details there.