It’s the time of year when goal setting begins to become a priority, business plans or marketing plans get made, and people in general are thinking about what they want the next year to look like. There are some great quotes out there about planning and goal setting. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” And Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
These quotes get me really jazzed. And it’s not just because I am a 95th percentile Structural thinker. What I really love about this time of year is the alignment that happens between people and ideas, leaders and their teams, individuals and the organization.
Goal setting and business planning is an important step in one of my favorite Leadership Models from the book The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do . Not only is it an important step, it is the first step in the model. Great leaders start by Seeing and Shaping the Future. According to the blog Great Leaders Serve, “Leadership always begins with a picture of the future and leaders are the ones who hold that future vision.”
Shaping the future is not something that just leaders do though, the same way that not only Structural thinkers create plans and not only Conceptual thinkers cast a vision. Each one of us is responsible for shaping our future. For me, it could just be deciding that I want to take on new responsibilities at work and seek to implement these 3 tips for achieving work life balance  (thanks to Emergenetics Associate Michelle Elrod for the great blog!).
From an organizational standpoint, getting the whole company aligned with annual goals and priorities is an important step towards creating a sense of purpose  and providing your team with something tangible to work towards. In his recent article  for Inc.com, our COO Morgan Browning points to a survey conducted by Deloitte that found 82% of those who work for organizations with a strong sense of purpose believe their company will grow this year.
So how does one go about Seeing and Shaping the future?
Whether you’re shaping your own future, doing so as a leader of a team, or as an executive for an entire organization, remember this — vision casting and drafting detailed plans are the obvious action items. They’re important to the overall process, but they do not paint the full picture. Shaping the future should also include these 5 additional steps:
- Identify objectives and establish benchmarks to track your success. This keeps everyone focused on the achievable tasks that can be accomplished in the short term, rather than focusing on the big picture which might seem daunting and unachievable. Celebrate the small victories each week.
- Think about who is impacted by the goals and plans. Roles need to be set so that the right people are contributing to key projects. How can you ensure that they are aligned with the needs of the initiative? What information do they need to be successful in their role?
- Communicate the vision and plans many times in multiple ways. We know through Emergenetics that people receive messages and interpret words differently. Don’t use a one size fits all approach to your messaging. Keep frequency of message in mind, too, to help keep the goal top of mind.
- Establish a goal owner. If it’s a personal goal, that’s easy. It’s likely you. Goals that involve many people need two things: 1) group consensus so that everyone is moving in the same direction, and 2) a driver- so that the goal keeps moving forward.
- Balance your focus. You know the saying, keep your eyes on the prize? Well it’s totally applicable here. If you don’t remain focused on a goal you’re not as likely to achieve it. BUT, sometimes new and better solutions will present themselves, and in 365 days, additional options are bound to pop up. Remain open to them, weigh the options, and move forward with the one that makes the most sense, even if it’s not the original goal.
Recently the Emergenetics NYC Office began the goal setting and planning process with an off-site, team alignment outing in Upstate New York. You could say that we planted the seeds of success for 2015… because in addition to clarifying our roles and discussing goals, we went apple picking! It was a beautiful, Fall day, and the perfect opportunity to get out of our day-to-day tasks and really reflect on all of the great things we want to accomplish next year.