Mastering the Goal-Setting Process: 5 Actions to Stay Committed & Accountable

“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action becomes reality.” – Greg Reid

With the start of each new year, it’s common for people to set resolutions. We dream of a fresh start, reflect on the previous year’s highs and lows, and consider what changes we want to make in the coming year.

The ability to set and follow through on goals makes a profound difference in a person’s concentration, performance, and overall happiness and satisfaction, both personally and professionally. Although many of us set informal goals or have some idea about where we are going, we can increase our chance for success if we master the goal-setting process.

Let’s start with goal setting in the workplace. Research indicates that teams who set goals can experience 20–25% improved work performance! Goals are important because they

  • Deepen employee engagement and confidence.
  • Provide direction about how to allocate time, energy, and focus.
  • Help team members understand how their efforts and contributions align with the short- and long-term strategic priorities of the team and organization.
  • Offer structure and context for effective feedback, coaching, and performance reviews.
  • Establish mutual agreement for expectations and performance targets.
  • Unleash motivation and energize people to reach a higher level of performance.

While these benefits sound great in theory, one of the biggest challenges with goal setting is sustaining the commitment required to persevere with the goal and see it through to completion. However, with a simple goal-setting framework and some practice and discipline, you can easily master the art of goal setting and push the boundaries of your success. Here are five actions to help you stay committed and accountable when setting goals:

goal planning on chalkboard

1. Identify a Goal Area

When selecting a goal, be sure to choose something that is meaningful to you. Doing so will create a greater sense of purpose and act as a motivator. To identify a specific target, consider a pressing problem to be solved, a specific skill to be strengthened, or a quota to be fulfilled. You should also explore how your goal links and aligns with the broader objectives of your team and/or organization.

2. Create a SMART Goal Statement

Write a clear and concise goal statement. This should describe what you will do, by what date, and for what benefit. Make sure to compare your statement against the SMART criteria:

Specific: Clearly pinpoint what to accomplish, the purpose, the people involved, and the requirements or constraints. The goal should not contain any vague words or verbs.
Measurable: Identify markers by which success will be measured. These may include how much, how many, and by when.
Achievable: Unattainable goals degenerate into perpetual struggle and result in discouragement. Your goal should be challenging, but also realistic.
Relevant: Goals must matter to you or to others who are affected by the goal (e.g., you, your team, your leader, the organization, the customer, etc.).
Time-bound: Identify a specific start date and a deadline to minimize interference from daily activities, drive motivation, and establish a sense of urgency.

3. Define an Action Plan

Remember, a goal without a plan is merely a wish. Outlining major action steps will be instrumental in your success to achieve a goal. Your plan should identify the timing for each action step, key milestones and metrics to track progress, and any other support or resources you may need. Before you begin implementing your plans, forecast potential obstacles or challenges you may encounter that could interfere with your progress. Additionally, watch for and recognize advantages and opportunities that will accelerate your progress.

4. Share Your Goal with Others

To establish more ownership and accountability, share your goal with leaders, team members, or colleagues. When sharing your goals, it’s important to be open to feedback and coaching on how your goal(s) could be improved or changed. Use this collaboration and dialogue to revise, adjust, or modify your goals as needed. Gaining perspective from others can also bring to light any additional action steps or resources that may have been missed or are needed to move forward.

5. Execute & Follow Up

Make a personal commitment to achieving your goal by taking immediate action on your plan and reviewing your goal daily. Track your progress using predetermined metrics/measures. Be mindful of actions and behaviors that work and discard those that don’t. Remember to be flexible and revise the action plan or specific aspects of your goal as needed to support goal achievement. Maintain accountability by arranging a recurring meeting with a leader or team member to follow up, review progress being made, and celebrate incremental accomplishments. This will help reinforce behaviors that are working well and driving success.

No matter how far into the year it is, there is no statute of limitations for setting and achieving goals. With clearly defined goals and targets, feedback mechanisms, and accountability measures, you and your team members can substantially improve results and positively impact the success of the organization. For more information about this process and setting goals that will lead to higher levels of individual and team performance, contact CMOE.

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About the Author

Kelsi Mackay

Kelsi is a Senior Account Manager and valued team member at CMOE. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with an emphasis in Organizational Development and Human Resources. She is passionate about personal development and values the opportunity she has to enable others in their own learning and development.