Know Your Target

Do you know where you are going?

Goal setting should be the #1 priority for businesses, work groups, and individuals. If you were told that you would win $1,000 for hitting a spot on the wall with a dart, but were not told or shown which spot, you would unlikely succeed. Goals are like that – they need to be specific. How can you know whether you are even close to your goal if you don’t have a specific target? A specific target helps you plan, adjust if you’re off the mark, and know when you have arrived.

Having specific goals allows for better planning because it is easier to come up with strategies to get from here to there, to come up with means to the end. For example, to hit a bull’s eye with a dart you need one or more darts, one or more people to throw the darts, and time to throw the darts. A specific target also allows for better adjustment if you’re off the mark. If the first several darts hit the dart board high and to the left of the bull’s eye, the shooters can modify their throws. It’s also really obvious when the goal has been achieved – bull’s eye!

In addition to being very specific, goals should be challenging, yet realistic. People don’t put forth the necessary effort and focus if a goal is easy or mundane. Setting a goal too high can be frustrating if it’s not possible to achieve after substantial time and effort, so be realistic. Some goals are very complex and have multiple components, such as having your dart team win the championship. If so, the goal might feel overwhelming to even begin. In such cases, break the larger goal into smaller, more manageable, yet still challenging goals. In the dart team example, this could consist of creating the sub-goal of improving the performance of each individual team member through practice.

Setting clear and challenging goals should happen at the beginning of a team’s lifecycle. The goals and means to those ends should be reconsidered explicitly as the team works together, to determine whether the team is on course. Strategies to reach the goal or the goal itself can be changed if necessary. If the team has not yet explicitly their goals, it’s never too late!

Sandra Carpenter, Ph.D.