3 Critical Goal-setting Mistakes Leaders Make

When it comes to goal setting, my experience as a coach and a consultant is that there are three damaging mistakes that business owners and corporate executives typically make. The three are interconnected.

mistake-eraseThe first and perhaps most serious mistake is that they start with their own business goals and not their personal goals. What we should be doing is first start with our personal goals – first in our own world, and then in the world of the employees who look to us for leadership. What do we want our life to look like a year from now? Five years from now? Not just financially, but also in terms of family and social goals, educational goals, travel and hobby goals, and yes, even ”stuff” goals… Once we have the answers to those questions, we can start figuring out what the business, the team, and the individuals need to do in order to turn the personal goals into reality. Now, that’s motivating!

A second, related mistake, is that we tend to focus on our goals, not the team’s. The discussion usually sounds like this: “We should grow by X% next year.” Here’s the reality: X is only a number, and numbers are not all that motivating in and of themselves. We can’t really expect our team to get on board with X and make a full commitment to a number. It’s just not realistic. Whether you are a small business owner with one employee, a sales manager with 20 reports, or a CEO with a large executive team, the issue is the same. We tend to think of what we want first, and what the other person wants only as that connects to us. That’s a problem.

I find that it’s very effective if I meet with each of my reports individually to discuss their personal goals – and nothing else – for at least half an hour. Where do they see themselves going? What are some of their dreams and visions? What do they want to accomplish, both personally and in their career? This kind of in-depth discussion often leads to amazing discoveries. Just by asking, we are letting the other person know that we are willing to help them get there. Once they realize that, they will be much more motivated to help us achieve the company goals we’ve outlined. A side benefit is that every once in a while, we find the employee wants to advance in the company, and you can become their mentor. That’s a good thing!

Finally, I find that the biggest mistake business owners and upper executives make is that they make their company goals too small. They say things like, “It would be great if we grew by 10% next year, so let’s tell the team that our target is 12% and maybe we’ll end up with 10%… and by the way, 8% wouldn’t be so bad.” Why not think bigger? How about 100% growth? If you don’t think that’s possible, then I would contend that you should start getting out of your own way.

Here’s a possible process: Bring your team together for a brainstorming session. Tell them you are committed to supporting and helping them to develop as people – and that you are just as committed to doubling your business revenue over the next 12-24 months. Ask them what changes would have to be made to accomplish this. You’ll be surprised by the suggestions you get in response. It might involve changes/additions to the sales team. Perhaps you will hear about a new marketing strategy. You may get ideas about pursuing new strategic partners. You may hear creative ideas for developing plans to recapture former customers. You may uncover ideas for implementing a strong referral strategy.

Just imagine if you had one or two strong referrals from each of your customers and you closed half of them! There are lots of different strategies your team can come up with that support the goal of doubling your business. The possibilities are endless, and there will not be one easy answer. What will emerge, however, will be a multi-pronged approach.

The point is this: You can double your business if you are willing to engage your team and think creatively. You all might have to work really hard to accomplish it. But history with many of my clients tells me that it can be done. And I believe it can happen in your world as well.



Kevin Shulman

Kevin Shulman

Kevin Shulman is author of GOAL-SETTING BOOT CAMP: Getting From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be. As a certified Sandler® trainer, Shulman has helped individuals, companies, and professional organizations set and attain important goals for almost 30 years. He specializes in helping business owners, sales leaders, and salespeople grow their base of business and reach their full potential.

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