Looking Back to Look Forward

It’s that time of year again when some of us arrive into the New Year with a well-developed set of clear and shiny goals ready to get cracking on Jan 2nd.  (Jan 1st still being the holidays).

A sizeable majority of people, I think, and I’m firmly in this camp, are still thinking about the goals they might commit to both personally and professionally.  Not too many, not too few, Something a little different for this year perhaps? The “old-reliables” are still very relevant though… Hmmm…

And deciding what your goals should be is important. After all you’re going to be living with them for a few months or even a whole year.  And then actually making them all happen is a whole different level of intent and action of course.

So when I spotted an interesting online goal-setting workshop in December 2021, run by “The World of Work Project,” I thought it was a good time investment.  I was right.  Jane Stewart and James Carrier were very generous with their expertise and inspired me to take my goal setting to a new level of thoroughness. (Interestingly, Jane & James run this workshop as part of their giving-back CSR endeavours to help educate and inform so people can have better work lives.  I thought that was great). 

So thinking about my major take-aways, the top one was to stick with the goal-setting exercise until I have really thought about the execution of my chosen goals.  

  • What will likely get in my way of achieving them? 
  • Whose help do I need?  
  • What resources do I need? 
  • By when exactly will I need to have x done?   
  • Are any of my goals actually interdependent?  

It struck me that heretofore I have not done that stage well and rather naively expected to achieve my goals but ensuring only one obvious outcome – my disappointment when some of them did not happen and the inevitable carry-forward to the next year.  This year will be different.

In Frankli, we’re all about the power of goal-setting and goal-progression for high-performance. We believe so much in it, that we’ve put goals at the heart of our platform. But setting goals is only half the challenge; reviewing, evolving and achieving them throughout the year is obviously where the rubber hits the road. This means being able to see your progress and regularly checking in with yourself and your manager on the goal and whether it is still even relevant.  With the degree of uncertainty and change we’re all living with at the moment in our lives and in our work, remaining flexible and agile around our goals, yet focused enough on their execution is fast becoming a superpower.

Other research I’ve done around goals setting – particularly for work – speaks to the value of reflection. Just like the questions to ask yourself on how you’ll successfully execute your goal, there are some questions to help you reflect on earlier goals, or earlier successes and failures. Asking yourself questions that surface why some things went well while others did not is insightful reflecting.   By looking back well, you’ll go forward well-equipped to achieve your goals.

  • What went well in 2021?
  • What did I learn? 
  • What / Who really enabled me to achieve something?
  • What hurdles did I encounter?
  • What changes would I make if I was doing that year again?

Finally, some other tips and learnings about goals that I’ve gathered along the way.

Try to prioritise.

Busy people risk having too many goals that are more of a to-do list than a set of real goals. If you do want to have a written “list”, try to cluster them under a relevant goal to streamline them better.

Collaborate to help refine and build on your goals.

Asking someone close to you for their feedback is really insightful input for your goal-setting. “What one goal would they think would be useful for you?”

Shorter timeframes.

Weeks, months or quarters vs a full year could prove a more useful approach in this rather uncertain year particularly

Motivate yourself

Include in your goal statement, the benefit and positive outcome of this goal.  Why bother having this goal? What benefit will it create that warrants the effort to do it. 

Regular reviews.

Don’t leave it until next Christmas break or some dreaded annual appraisal to review your goals. Diarise some regular time to “meet yourself” to review your progress and make any required tweaks to how you’re progressing. 

We’ve also developed a useful Frankli OKR e-book. Feel free to access it here.

Happy goal setting


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