Goal setting that actually works (aka for people who hate goal setting)

Jo Royce, TMM Board Advisor & complete legend
Read time: 4 minutes Do you ever feel like you’re perpetually ‘busy’ but when you look at your calendar you can’t quite work out what it’s all for? With no goals in place, it can be very easy to slip into doing a lot of ‘stuff’ that doesn’t take you where you want to go. […]

Read time: 4 minutes

Do you ever feel like you’re perpetually ‘busy’ but when you look at your calendar you can’t quite work out what it’s all for? With no goals in place, it can be very easy to slip into doing a lot of ‘stuff’ that doesn’t take you where you want to go. This session with TMM Advisor and all round legend, Jo Royce is about taking steps to fix that.

Jo presented a really thoughtful approach to goal setting that begins, as all of the important things do, with how we feel and behave as humans. She covered how to:

🔎 Learn the art of setting clear, actionable goals in a number of different methodologies

👥 Discover how to align goals to get buy in from the rest of the team and company

📊 Master reporting to keep track and motivate progress

Watch the full webinar back below, or read on for the key takeaways.

💬 Why we should set goals

The world feels very stressful right now. There is so much happening politically and economically that perhaps the idea of setting goals feels fruitless or unimportant. Jo kicked things off by explaining that now is a brilliant time to be setting goals – a way to remind yourself that you do have agency over your life and the lives of others and that by focusing on what’s meaningful and important you give yourself the best chance of progressing, developing and improving.

For some people, the phrase ‘goal setting’ can be quite triggering. It can feel stressful and unmotivating. For others, you might find the idea of setting goals to be exciting and inspiring. If you’ve struggled with setting and keeping goals in the past, maybe they haven’t been the right goals, or they’ve been tracked and reviewed in the wrong way.

👩‍🌾 Start by grounding yourself

Who are you and what do you want? For goal setting to be meaningful, useful and practical it really helps if you know what motivates you – what you want and why. Knowing what your why is is critical to goal setting. Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you like/love doing?
  • What gives you energy?
  • What depletes your energy?
  • What motivates you?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What are you willing to try?

🤔 It’s ok to find goal setting tricky

Life is messy. But when you start goal setting from a place of self acceptance and approach things with positivity then you will inevitably be more successful. 

There are two schools of thought when it comes to goal setting theory.

Management by Objectives (Drucker 1954) approach:

“Goal setting as a means to focus and organise – leading to greater productivity and effectiveness.”

Used within an organisation to organise how stuff gets done and to measure progress. This approach emphasises control and prioritises a top down pyramid organisation structure.

Continuous Improvement (William Edwards Deming (1986)) – an approach which emphasises a bit more freedom and motivation:

“Emphasised pride in work through continuous improvement, and freedom from the constraints of targets against which individuals and teams had to perform.”

It is important to remember that everyone’s motivation is personal and individual. You unlock great performance when you take the time to try and understand what makes someone tick.

🧩 SMART goals are only a piece of the puzzle

The guy who came up with the idea of SMART goals (George Doren, 1981), recognised that when top and middle level management are indecisive or set inadequate objectives, errors and judgments will compound themselves through the entire organisation. Research from American Universities found that SMART goals can in fact encourage us to focus on the wrong goals.

Questions to ask when you are goal setting in an organisational context:

  • Are the goals too specific?
  • Are the goals too challenging?
  • Who sets the goals?
  • Is the time horizon appropriate?

Things to remember when aligning and tracking progress in an organisational context:

  • Less is more
  • Co-ownership and creation (do it together)
  • Make it clear, motivating and fair
  • Enable different styles
  • Don’t do it too often
  • Don’t overcomplicate things
  • Work out if what you’re tracking and measuring is actually the right stuff

🔥 Instead of SMART goals, create FIRE goals

  • Focusing
  • Inspiring
  • Relevant
  • Energising

💬 3 tactics for better goal setting:

  1. Small steps

Start where you are. You are doing great. Acknowledge your current reality and be realistic about what may get in your way. Commit to small but consistent steps. How you approach and capture your goals can make a real difference to how motivating you find them so start with something simple and super-achievable based on what you know you can do or have done before. And then make sure you build in time to reflect on your progress and reward yourself as you go. 

  1. Dream big

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.” – Manfred FR Kets de Vries

Imagine it’s your 60th/70th/80th birthday party and your friends and family have gathered around to celebrate you. They start to give speeches about you. What do you want them to say? What do you want to have achieved? Doing this kind of visualisation can allow you to access your hidden ambitions and dreams. Accessing these desires is the first step before turning them into reality.

If you’re struggling for inspiration, get out of your head and away from your desk. Try to look beyond your immediate circumstances to ask questions like ‘what does the world need right now?’

  1. Bringing it together, flexing and adapting

Aim to create ground-up goals, review them regularly and track your progress, whilst always keeping an eye on the bigger vision goals. By bringing the first two approaches together you will gain a more holistic sense of who you are and what you’re trying to do. And then, don’t sweat the small stuff. Plans will change and things will go wrong but embracing the now has never been more important. 

Jo’s Goal Hacks

  • Identify the why before the what
  • Build up from positive experiences
  • Give yourself some quick wins
  • Find a ‘buddy’ or mentor
  • Get creative and playful
  • Create goals when you’re feeling good
  • Try the rule of 3 – don’t set more than 3 goals at once!

The world needs some new solutions, fresh thinking and innovative approaches so allow yourself to be creative when it comes to goal setting and always keep trying to be a better human.

📖 Jo’s Self Development Book recommendations

  • Help – Oliver Burkeman
  • Four Thousand Weeks – Oliver Burkeman
  • Happier – Talben Shahar
  • The Art of Possibility – Rosamund & Benjamin Zander
  • The Happiness Hypothesis – Jonathan Haidt
  • The Art of Choosing – Sheena Iyengar
  • Beyond Goals – David, Clutterbuck, Megginson
  • The 100-Year Life – Gratton & Scott