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Goal Setting: The Power and the Problem

Holli H. was an Account Executive selling materials to manufacturers in a business-to-business environment. As an Account Executive, she didn’t have the same pressure for making phone calls to prospects and customers that a Business Development Representative (BDR) might have. Nevertheless, both Holli and her employer were aware of the importance of making regular phone calls.

Account Executives (AEs) in Holli’s company that initiated more frequent contact experienced more success. Holli took advantage of a goal-setting initiative and instruction to set a goal to increase her phone calls to customers and prospects from 8 each day to 10-12 calls a day. It was a simple goal. It didn’t take much effort. She used Griffin Hill’s Goal Achiever App to set the goal and evaluate it every day.

Holli was astonished when, in just one month, she doubled her commissions as a result of her simple goal. She was excited to pay off some debts and she was thrilled with what she learned about goal setting and achieving.

As the CEO of Griffin Hill, a human and organizational performance company, I know the power of goal setting and achieving. So do you. You have been setting and achieving goals all your life.

Science tells us that teaching the principles of goal setting and achieving to those we lead will pay huge dividends. Helping those we lead to master the principles and techniques of goal setting and achieving helps them to be more engaged and more productive at work. Goal setters experience more hope and optimism, and they enjoy higher levels of emotional resilience.


Those who set goals are like the pea pods in Vilfredo Pareto’s garden. Goal setters simply achieve more. 80% of goal-setters report they keep goals in their minds but do not write them. People with unwritten goals outperform their peers of equal ability who do not set goals. But that small percent of goal-setters who write their goals, outperform other goal setters by a whopping 42%!


If goal-setters outperform their peers of equal ability, are more engaged and productive at work, experience more hope and optimism, and enjoy higher levels of emotional resilience, where is the problem???

The problem is that the vast majority of adults no longer engage in goal-setting and achieving behavior. Furthermore, evidence demonstrates managers who set goals for their team are largely ineffective. As a result, goal behavior is at an all-time low—leaving the majority of the workforce unengaged, lacking direction, living without passion, and subject to discouragement and disillusion.

Though results from studies vary, there is universal agreement that a large portion of the population simply do not engage in any goal-setting behavior. The University of Scranton says only 8% of people set and work to achieve their goals. In a Griffin Hill study of business leaders, 80% report they set goals. One-fourth of leaders who set goals (20% of the total population) report they accomplished none of them! 46% of goal-setting leaders (58% of the total population) report they accomplished some of their goals. And less than 2% of goal-setters report they accomplished all their goals.

Even though 80% of business leaders claim to set goals that are specific, measurable, and limited in number, only 33% of their employees can name their employer’s priorities, and only 16% understand the connection between their work goals and corporate strategies.

No wonder the Gallup organization is telling us that fully 70-85 percent of the global workforce is not engaged. They claim this pall of poor performance is the result of weak leadership and inept management.

The evidence is clear, the jury is in—the vast majority of adults, including most business leaders, have not mastered the principles and techniques of setting and achieving goals. Poor goal behavior results in underperforming workers and effective leaders.

Don’t Despair: You can lead your team out of the confusing fog of goal setting and achieving misinformation. You can Help Your People Grow, Improve, and Perform

Our nation was built on the vision, commitment, and hard work of pioneering goal setters and achievers. Their hopes and dreams led to the establishment of colonies, cities, and states. Pioneer persistence spurred the push westward. They established farms, ranches, and businesses—enterprises that embodied their optimism. They had goals, and they made plans to achieve them.

You did the same. You had vision and dreams and worked hard to achieve them. That is why you are the leader you are. You may think that goal setting and achieving comes naturally—it did to you. But it doesn’t come naturally to most people, including members of your very own team.


Leaders Teach

Because goal setting and achieving don’t come naturally to your team, you have an opportunity to shape their lives for the better. You can shape the future of every member of your team by teaching them the principles and techniques of goal setting and achieving. Leaders teach. When you teach correct principles, your people can govern themselves to better goal behavior.

Because goal setting and achieving come naturally to many executives, they are unconsciously competent. They are very skilled at personal goal behavior but uncertain how to effectively teach the principles and techniques to others. This instructional content may help (LINK) you can use it to educate your team. You can use it to create your own lessons or you can share the content and then have a team discussion about the content. Don’t let lack of preparation time or low confidence keep you from teaching goal-setting principles and techniques to your team!

Unconscious Competence

As a natural goal setter, it is highly likely that you are unconsciously competent. Dissecting and teaching these principles to others may not be easy. It might be helpful to watch the content on goal setting and achieving that I produced for Griffin Hill. After watching the content, you can decide if you want to teach it to yourself, or if you want your team to get a Griffin Hill Insider Membership (my free gift to you), that includes our Goal Setting and Achieving content. The Insider Membership also has the Griffin Hill Goal Achiever App.

Demonstrate interest in those you lead by helping them to set and achieve personal and work-related goals.

When you go to the effort to teach your people about goal setting, you show interest in them and their well-being. When your people know that you care about their circumstances, it cultivates loyalty and commitment. The result is higher levels of engagement, productivity, and work satisfaction.

Four Pithy Paeons that will re-shape how you think about goal setting and achieving

Thomas Gilbert wrote the book on Human Competence. Among the heady gems in its pages, Gilbert boldly proclaims, “mistakes in decisions about goals is the single greatest cause of human incompetence.”

Among the mistakes that people make about goals is not setting them, setting the wrong goal, making the goal too high, making the goal too low, not having a deadline for doing the activities that will lead to accomplishing the goal, becoming distracted, disillusioned, and discouraged.

William Jennings Bryan was a motivator and politician in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was his party’s candidate for president three different times. Known for his prowess as an orator, it is no wonder that he contributes useful ideas to human growth and progression. Here is one selection.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

The destiny Mr. Bryan speaks of is that of a better life and a hopeful situation brought about by capturing our desires and harnessing them by using the principles of goal setting and achieving.

Beryl Markham was a female adventurer, aviator, and author. In her book, West With the Night, she makes this remarkable observation.

“If a man has any greatness in him, it comes to light, not in one flamboyant hour but in the daily ledger of his work.”

A female author, Ms Markham might be forgiven for her use of the male pronoun—it was the common writing style at the time her book was published in the 1940s. Her contribution to our pithy quotes helps us to remember that goal setting and achieving are the result of daily measured effort. It is the aggregation of incremental improvement that leads to great achievement.

M. Russell Ballard is a business leader, entrepreneur, and religious leader. His contribution focuses our attention on the mastery of principles and techniques of setting and achieving our goals.

I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential.

When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.

Looking back on our lives, without having reached our full potential would certainly be a cause for regret. With regard to goal setting and achieving, we all live with pain—either the pain of effort or the pain of regret.

7 Steps to Master the Principles and Techniques of Setting and Achieving Goals

Avoid the trap laid by the well-intentioned but uninformed, which says you can’t set goals for things you don’t directly control. In a discussion with a group of CEOs, they were equally split on whether setting goals for sales and revenue were reasonable and effective. Some argued that because the buying decision of any given prospect isn’t directly in the control of a salesperson, setting a goal for closing was not helpful and bordered on psychological malpractice. Nonsense! These executives simply don’t understand that ENDS goals (goals that may not be in their direct control) represent the hopes, desires, and wishes toward which a salesperson strives. MEANS goals (activities that ARE in their direct control) stack the odds of success in their favor. Lack of understanding of the principles of ENDS goals and MEANS goals is a mistake that leads to performance incompetence!

If you want to elevate the competence and performance of your team consider some of the principles from the Griffin Hill SMARTER goals.

You know all about SMART goals. But the competence of your team will be enhanced by learning about Griffin Hill’s SMARTER goals. We share a handful of concepts that cannot be found anywhere else!

Griffin Hill’s SMARTER goals is an approach that adds gravitas to goal setting and achieving. The instructional video makes it easier for leaders to teach and develop goal setting and achieving to the people they lead. Some leaders prefer to watch the content and then teach the principles themselves. Others find it easier to have their team members get a free Griffin Hill Insider Membership that includes the goal-setting content as well as the Goal Achiever App. By inviting every team member to study the content in advance, the leader can initiate a discussion where every team member contributes their best ideas based on the goal-setting instruction.

The app is important because those who write their goals achieve more than those who simply formulate them in their own mind.

(graphic Gail Matthews, 2015, those who write goals achieve 33% more than those who simply formulate them in their mind.)

The SMART goal acronym is familiar to CEOs and business leaders. Griffin Hill’s SMARTER goals add important concepts to goal setting and achieving that are not found anywhere else. Here are some of those concepts:

  1. Specific—making goals specific will be made more powerful by including the answer to 4 questions:

    • What TYPE of activity will I do to achieve my goal?
    • With what INTENSITY will I do the activity?
    • What will be the FREQUENCY of the activity?
    • With what DURATION will I do the activity.

    Answering these four questions enables better goal behavior and success.
  2. Measurable—choosing a range goal instead of a pinprick goal helps people to achieve more. There is a constant tug of war between setting high goals—shooting for the moon, and low goals—attainability. Setting challenging goals leads to higher achievement.

Unless the goal is set too high. When goals are too high, the goal setter may quit before they ever start. 

  1. Attainable—using range goals gives the goal setter permission to base the low-end of their range on the principle of incremental improvement. Incremental improvement is one of the best-kept secrets of high achievers. Aggregated incremental improvement is to achievement what compound interest over long periods of time is to the savvy investor!
  2. Relevant—for Griffin Hill, relevancy addresses two questions. First, is the chosen activity directly connected to the accomplishment of the end goal? Second, does the activity capture the imagination and enthusiasm of the performer—will it excite adoption and engagement?
  3. Time-Bound—people perform to deadlines. Without a deadline for action, no action is likely. For that reason, it is important to get the actions scheduled and on the calendar.
  4. Evaluate—inspection is an essential part of accountability and making activities time-bound. Inspecting and evaluating on a schedule helps a performer to make essential adjustments. Important to the process is evaluating the effort of the performer as well as the value and efficacy of the goal itself. In some cases, the performer will need to adjust the effort that goes into achieving a goal. In other cases, they may adjust the goal. Evaluating goals on four different time horizons will impact the persistence of goal behavior. Goals should be evaluated each day, every week, monthly or quarterly, and annually. Daily evaluation should take no more than 5-10 minutes. Weekly evaluations could be 10-20 minutes. Monthly or quarterly (I prefer quarterly), evaluations should be 20-40 minutes. Annual evaluations will likely include setting new goals. This could take one hour or several hours over a period of days.
  5. Record—as noted from the research, people who have goals but do not write them, achieve at levels higher than non-goal setters. People who write their goals achieve them at a rate 42% higher than those who do not write their goals. Daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, and annual evaluations should be recorded. Recording the data of performer effort and results provides a baseline for continuous improvement. Evaluation and Recordation are made easier using the Griffin Hill Goal Achiever App (free access link).

Three important questions will be useful and powerful at the conclusion of the goal-setting process

  • Can I see it? Is it easy to visualize the activity? Can I connect the dots between the activity and the desired result?
  • Do I believe it? Do I believe I CAN persistently engage the activity as outlined? Do I believe I WILL engage the activity as outlined? Do I believe the activity will lead to the desired result?
  • Will I do it? Am I committed to the activity and results?

When leaders implement these and other Griffin Hill principles of goal setting and achieving, they elevate performance in the near term and they shape the leaders of the future.

I am confident these ideas can lead to greater levels of competence and performance results for your team!

6 dimensions of fitness to be considered for goal setting and achieving

  1. Health and physical fitness. Health and physical fitness goals are among the most popular for goal setters. Losing weight is the top New Year’s Resolution year after year. Related goals include exercising more, stopping smoking, and drinking less. Health and fitness goals are related to longevity and quality of life.
  2. Relationships and Social fitness. Relationships and social fitness goals are related to the enjoyment of life. Improving the quality and quantity of relationships may require the development of better social skills in order to create and maintain those relationships.
  3. Intellectual and mental fitness. New goals often take the form of taking classes, learning a new skill, developing a proficiency, learning more about an area of interest, or developing a hobby.
  4. Work, career, and financial fitness—Career development and financial goals are another popular area for New Year’s Goal Setting. People consider goals like earning more, getting a better job, saving for retirement, investing for the future, and accomplishing a career milestone.
  5. Spiritual/Emotional fitness. Spiritual and emotional fitness goals are growing in popularity. People are becoming more attuned to the importance of mental well-being and are looking for ways to improve emotional resilience.
  6. Achievement and personal growth. People yearn to grow and progress. Employees value companies that provide opportunities for development. Learning and mastering the principles of goal setting and achieving bring additional authentic sources of fulfillment and happiness.

5 Strategies for helping your people achieve more

  1. Establish company goals. Using correct principles of setting and achieving goals will model goal behavior to employees. Organizational goal setting helps employees to tune in to top priorities. It helps them to understand the connection between their personal roles and responsibilities and the company objectives.
  2. Strengths-based goals. Strengths-based goals can be directed to developing desired and strategic strengths. It can also direct the use and leveraging of key strengths to secure and maintain a strategic position.
  3. Culture of collaboration. When teams set shared goals, it stimulates intra-team cooperation. Team members support each other and rely on one another to accomplish team goals.
  4. Use one-to-one meetings. Leaders who provide a continuous feedback loop on goal behavior will stimulate higher levels of engagement, goal achievement, and productivity. One-to-one meetings help employees to appreciate the importance of their contribution to the team. They will be more accountable for regular progress.
  5. Ongoing feedback loop. Ongoing feedback is not limited to one-to-one meetings. Ongoing feedback can include emails, texts, informal visits, and formal feedback on status updates.


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