Success: Do You Have The Skills?
Jack Lee

As I continue to explore why many of us seem to “sabotage” our own success, I’m struck by the widespread lack of skill in personal and professional goal setting.  This lack of “goal setting skill” takes many forms, including not setting goals at all, setting “minimum performance” goals, setting too many goals, or setting goals that are not specific and measurable.

Why does this sabotage happen?  Based on my own struggle with effective goal setting and considerable observation of that same struggle among professionals in the firms we help to achieve success, I have arrived at three key reasons:

  • First, we are all challenged with the idea that if we don’t set goals, no one, including ourselves, will notice that we’ve fallen short.  I call this “Fear Of Success”
  • Second, while some of us do engage in some form of annual goal setting, we don’t understand how to establish “effective goals.I call this “Don’t Know How”
  • Third, we set effective goals, but haven’t established a “return and report” process with interim actions steps and milestones to help us accomplish them.  I call this “Don’t Really Want It”

In my last blog, I explored “Fear Of Success.” In this blog, we’ll tackle the reason called “Don’t Know How” and we’ll cover “Don’t Really Want It” in my next blog.

Effective goal setting is a skill that can be learned with practice. Let’s first look at the common behaviors of setting “minimum performance” goals and setting “too many” goals.  The only result of setting minimum performance goals is to keep doing what we’ve always done, while setting too many goals provides a “built in” excuse for failure and lack of performance. After all, who can reasonably be expected to accomplish all these things?

To be effective in goal setting, you must limit yourself to 3 to 5 “stretch” goals.  Limiting the number of goals acknowledges that although you may want to “do it all and have it all,” you must focus and make choices to really make a difference.  And to make a difference, your goals need to s-t-r-e-t-c-h you. They need to be “big and hairy and scary” – over and above minimum performance standards. Coming to work every day and repeating the same performance as last year is not a stretch goal.

Effective stretch goals will:

  • Tie to your role and to firm strategy
  • Focus primarily on your strengths, while selecting one weakness for improvement
  • Consider areas of personal growth, too

In establishing your goals, think about two types:

  • Goals that improve a behavior or skill, for example, leadership, business development, communication, and conflict resolution skills, or
  • Goals that produce a deliverable of tangible result, focused either on current production or future production, such as developing future leaders, succession planning, business development, and client transition

Finally, to establish effective goals, they must be:

  • Specific – Answering who, what, why, when, and where. Consider the feedback you received in your last formal evaluation process to determine the areas requiring focus going forward.
  • Measurable – Establishing clear, objective criteria for measuring progress and determining whether your goal has been achieved.  For “softer” behavioral goals describe “what will be different” or “what it will look like” when you achieve the goal, and ask a mentor to observe you and hold you accountable.
  • Realistic and Relevant – Delivering and supporting the strategy your firm is committed to and you must “want to” and “be able” to work toward the goal.
  • Written and Shared – Your commitment to perform increases when your goals are written and shared with others. In fact, you cannot establish an effective goal without writing it down and telling somebody.

We will continue to help our clients succeed by asking “Success: Do You Have the Skills?”  In the meantime, if you have any ideas or experiences to share on this subject, please post them so others can benefit.  Thank you!

Best regards,



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