My first week of the new year was joyfully fulfilled by answering questions regarding business leaders' best practices regarding goal setting. I was not surprised to hear that the common concerns for 2022 are:
1) Not having enough time to do everything,
2) Not having enough support to do everything,
3) Not knowing what to expect given the epidemic uncertainty."
How can we set goals for 2022?" is the recurring question. My response to this question is surprisingly simple - Focus on your priorities!
First, understand why we need to focus on priorities.
A client of mine is a newly promoted CEO of a medium-sized organization who suffered much stress in 2021. While he was trying his best to keep up with the epidemic changes and still fulfilling the strategic plan, the Board believed that the CEO needed an executive coach to help him deliver even better results. After having several rounds of conversations and analyzing the information, I learned that the CEO spent about 20% of his time handling pandemic-related issues in 2021! Therefore, I advised the Board to allow the CEO to make “Surprise Management” a goal for 2022 and remove at least three items from the new year goal setting list.
This method raises the question of “what items should we remove from this CEO’s yearly plan?”
Second, know which priorities to focus energy on.
I do not doubt that every CEO’s yearly plan goal is important and carefully crafted. Although the number of goals set depends on the scope of the tasks and effort it will require to fulfil them, as human beings, we get distracted and lose focus quickly if we work on too many things at the same time. Our resources also get depleted. It is then highly challenging to maintain the quality of each deliverable. Although there is no scientific research demonstrating the best number of goals to set, based on my experience working with leaders and middle managers, having three to five SMART goals in a year is ideal. Such a number of goals raises the question, “What are the three-five things you must complete this year?”
Third, plan how to stay focused on priorities.
Each business is different, and as the goals set should be. Below is an example of this CEO’s goals for 2022 without prioritization, and not in the order of importance:
I was not envious of the CEO. How can he complete everything and deal with changes due to COVID? By reviewing the organization’s strategic plan, I identified cost reduction and improving the organization’s financial health as the top priority, followed by employee engagement. No organization can afford to lose more staff during the pandemic. Based on the strategic plan, we re-prioritized the list as follows:
When everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority! A vice president whom I worked closely with shared his secret for accomplishing priority work within a limited time is:
1) Always talk about why you were doing what you were doing given your priorities,
2) Ask your supervisor which goal you should drop from the priority list if they give you another goal.
Goal setting is intended to help us remain focused and deliver quality results. It is not a numbers game. Contrary to the common belief that we ought to set new resolutions for the new year, for 2022, let’s make sure we can get an old resolution completed and completed well: Focus on our priorities.
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