As we close the door on some of the most challenging years in recent history, finding motivation for personal growth and development can be tough. As folks reflect on things and begin planning how exactly the new year will bring about that “new year, new me,” goal setting may be the answer.
Whether you want to shed a few pounds, go for that association certification or save some money for a vacation, chances are without the right framework, those goals will fall by the wayside within Q1.
So how exactly do you set goals and actually achieve them?
In our Guide to Goal Setting, we’ll outline some of the most common methods, how they work and some examples to get the new year started off right!
We’ve also made things easier with our goal templates, which you can download here:
7 Free Goal Setting Worksheets and Templates
As we close the door on some of the most challenging years in recent history, finding motivation for personal growth and development can be tough. As folks reflect on things...Download Now
Ask any of your friends, family or colleagues, and chances are they’ve set goals at some point. Why? Because it works.
By outlining the things you want to do, learn, or experience and tracking what it takes to get there, chances are you’ll be more likely to achieve them. Some other benefits of goal-setting include:
As mentioned above, structured goal setting can mean the difference between success and failure. But how do you choose the method that’s right for you? Every method and process is different, but a common method that many larger organizations use, including Google, is OKR goal setting.
Objectives and key results are the foundations of OKR goals. Originally created by John Doerr, this methodology is based on setting a big-picture objective and then tracking the key results that will get you there.
In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Doerr outlined setting OKR goals saying, “The objective is what I want to have accomplished. The key results are how I’m going to get it done. The objectives are typically longer lived. They’re bold and aspirational. The key results are aggressive, but always measurable, time-bound, and limited in number.”
So how do you create OKR goals for your association?
As Doerr says, objectives should be long-lasting and bold. For many associations, this translates to a big-picture shift in the way things are done.
The key results are going to be the way you track progress on your objectives. These results need to be measurable and specific, as this allows you to assign them to staffers or teams, and they should be tracked as often as possible to help determine if any strategy changes need to be made.
For example, the key results for our objectives above could look like:
It’s also important to note that OKR goals need to be specific in terms of time. Whether you’re using it personally or as a larger team initiative, setting a specific timeline such as 90 days, will help track and reassess data more often.
S.M.A.R.T goal setting is a popular framework popularized by George Doran in 1981. In an article at the time, he outlined that successful goals needed to follow a formula of being specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related.
Some of the letters have changed meaning over time. The “A,” for example, has been reinterpreted as “attainable” in recent iterations. Similarly, the “T,” can be interpreted as time-bound, encouraging you to set a target for completion. These changes in interpretation simply allow for more flexibility when tailoring the SMART method to your needs.
It’s important to note that not everyone will be able to write out a SMART goal without first putting in some work. A good place to start is with a vague goal that then becomes more specific as it passes through each letter of the framework.
I would like to get my CAE certification.
While this is a fine goal, without any framework, it can be hard to achieve it.
The SMART version of this goal would look something like this:
Pass CAE test.
In order to sit for the CAE exam, association professionals need to meet specific requirements and standards of conduct. As long as you fit within those eligibility requirements, then yes, CAE certification is attainable.
CAE certification is an important step for advancing my career and can open doors to new opportunities.
Check the exam schedule first. From there, choose an attainable testing date and use that as your goal. CAE testing schedules are available online with dates often landing in December and May. Setting a specific test date and study timeline can ensure you’re prepared.
When choosing which method works best for you, it really depends on the amount of support you need, how you visualize things and the outcome you’re looking for. Additionally, consider the timeframe and scope of the goal as this could also impact the method you choose.
Both OKR and SMART goals are similar in the sense of their specificity and the tracking used to quantify whether or not a goal is successful. For example, if your association has a specific membership or revenue goal, you can easily find and track that data. Also, they both generally have timelines that make it easy to focus on them for a given period.
One of the major differences between the two goal-setting frameworks is their scope. SMART goals are often used by the individual because they can be short-term – i.e. save money, lose weight, prepare for a specific exam.
OKR goals on the other hand generally have far-reaching implications for an organization and can change the way day-to-day operations are run.
Also, while SMART goals should have an attainability aspect, as in you should be able to achieve it, OKR goals can be larger scale and aspirational – not necessarily achievable within the next quarter or even year.
Both SMART and OKR goals are often focused on the professional aspect of things, but your goals can take a more holistic approach as well. One example we included in our goal template download is the Wheel of Life. This tool is designed to help you visualize and assess your work-life balance.
You should divide your wheel into eight categories that can include things like your family, health, finances and education. From there, you can evaluate each area giving it a rating from 0 to 10 based on how much time is being devoted to these areas, giving you a visual representation of where you’re spending your time.
Ask yourself, are you satisfied with these ratings? Are there any areas you can improve? What activities can you do to help increase the time spent in the areas you want the most?
While many of the goal setting methods mentioned above are aimed at personal development and growth, for associations looking to make the most of their efforts for the new year, setting organizational goals is an integral part of success.
According to a recent Inc. article, one step many organizations are missing during the goal-setting process is finding the connection between large-scale goals and a staffer’s day-to-day life.
“They forget that for many employees, there's no clear connection between the work that they do and sweeping, company-wide ambitions. You can almost hear the inner monologue down the reporting chain: ‘Sure, it's nice to be included in company strategy talks, but how do I contribute to all of this?’”
As an association, ensuring organization-wide goals are broken down into smaller steps or benchmarks can help achieve key results as outlined in the OKR model, for example. Outside of helping with the success rate of the goal, some of the other benefits include:
In addition to setting company-wide goals, integrating goal setting into the culture of an organization is also key. Associations should be invested in the wellbeing of their staffers and members, which is why doing periodic check-ins and assistance with goal setting can go a long way to improving overall culture.
According to an article from Align on how to use OKRs, “OKRs are dynamic and aspirational. They can change as quarters move along to incorporate new information. They allow for a process of continuous refinement and improvement.”
As opposed to being a short-term process to reach goals, they are an adjustable and long-term commitment to growth for staffers. “They are a living blueprint for the direction of the organization and the collective efforts of every individual.”
Although the focus of our guide has been on goal setting, it’s important to note that goals can sometimes put unnecessary stress on people – especially if they are not met. So, as you set your goals and outline all the steps you’ll be taking in the coming months, it’s also important to begin setting healthy habits.
In James Clear’s book, “Atomic Habits,” he outlines the power of small changes and improvements. Even if it’s just 1 percent, that change can lead to huge growth over a lifetime, going beyond the scope of just a single goal.
The bottom line is there are many different goal setting methods and choosing the one that gives you the best results is key. One consistent factor in all of these methods, however, is the process of data collection. Whether it’s a formal spreadsheet where you log the hours put into your goal or even something as simple as a journal, being present and aware of your goals and how you’re moving towards them can be all the difference when it comes to success.
Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.
If you’re ready to increase your membership organization’s revenue, connect with an entire community of purpose-driven leaders and grow yourself, we’re ready to help you do it.Learn More