Leadership Matters: The most important factor in setting goals

Identify key metrics to keep everyone working in same direction.

It’s the time of year when many people, especially those responsible for the performance of an organization, are thinking about goals. I spend a significant amount of time consulting with CEOs and executive teams on organizational goal setting, and I’m often surprised that when we dig into the discussion, there is a big difference between their idea of goal setting and the type of goal setting that actually results in predictable organizational performance.

We all agree on one thing: Setting goals is an important first step to achieve desired outcomes. A wide range of research supports this. For example, Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, psychologists and pioneers in goal-setting theory, found over numerous studies that setting goals increases performance and productivity by 11 percent to 25 percent.

But Nonspecific Goals = Very Little Value

Almost everyone has basic goals in mind for their business and for their personal life. In the personal realm, we often carry around goals of losing weight, quitting a bad habit, or getting more sleep. Similarly, almost every leader wants to grow their organization rapidly, to improve their products and services, and to make their customers happier. These are natural goals, and we don’t have to think too hard about them.

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