Goal Setting for CEOs

As a CEO, I’m always amazed at how many of my CEO colleagues don’t create and write down their goals for each year. How do they know if they are on track? If their companies are doing well? If they are achieving what they set out to do? No goals, no direction.

For me, goal setting is a welcome and helpful process and I encourage you to view it the same way. I create goals once a year and it’s very rewarding to monitor our company progress and know that we’re on track. Here is my tried and tested (and simple!) goal-setting process that you can try yourself.

Without well-defined and written goals, how would you know if you’re on track?

Every November I create my goals for the following year. I go in with the expectation that it will take time and focus: it is not a trivial task. Don’t confuse simple with easy because this does take work. I know that for me, the process typically takes about two weeks. Yes, two weeks. I know it will be time well spent because I’ve seen it repay itself multiple times over in previous years.

1. Define Top 2 Business & Personal Goals
On a blank piece of paper I write down the top strategic goal for my company in the next 3-5 years. Our current strategic goal is growth to a specific revenue target and headcount.

Now I ask myself what needs to happen in the coming year to get us one step closer to this long-term goal. I brainstorm first and then narrow down to the top two goals by considering how each goal will nudge us in the right direction. Once I determine the top two, I write them down on the left-hand side of the paper under the long-term goal. For example, one of my business goals this year is to add 18 new SAP eLearning courses to our course catalog, which will help us reach our revenue target.

Now I switch focus to my personal life. I know that I do my best work when I am happy and healthy, so I create the top two personal goals for my family and home life. I write these down on the right side of the paper. An example of one of my personal goals is to have a better work-life balance this year.

2. Break Goals Into Quarterly Milestones
These annual goals are too big to implement directly, so I break them down into quarterly milestones. My SAP eLearning goal easily breaks down into a plan to create 4-5 new courses every quarter. I broke down my goal for better work-life balance into more specific plans like leaving work after lunch on Fridays, no work emails on the weekends, and taking a trip with my wife each quarter. Now I’m getting closer to tangible steps that can be tracked and measured.

3. Define & Track Metrics
The final step is to define metrics that align with my goals and then track them monthly on my dashboard (if you don’t have a dashboard, look for a coming post—every CEO should have one!). For example, if I want to produce 4-5 eLearning courses every quarter, I know that each month we need to produce one or two courses, 15-20 lesson scripts, audio recordings, and other activities. Now I can make sure that each month we are on track to meet the annual goal.

It’s critical that the goals are specific and measurable. A goal that is not measurable is just a wish! Much of the two weeks is spent defining metrics and making sure I’m measuring the right things to monitor progress.

Are you ready to implement structured goal setting into your year? Decide when you want to sit down and start this process and mark your calendar now!

Do you have other habits that help you set goals and stay on track? Have questions on how to make this work for you? I’d love to read your comments below.

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