Setting goals can be useful—but how do you do it?

by Kimberly Greene13 Dec 2018

Going through life without setting goals is like hopping in a car and magically hoping you get to where you want to be. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there?

The beginning of a new year is a popular time for goal-setting, but whether or anyone meets these goals has a lot to do with how they’re set. It’s easy to stop striving if there aren’t immediate results (hence the number of people in the gym in February versus January), so start the process right and consider the below when creating a path to success.

1. Be specific
Wanting to increase volume next year or closing more loans in a month is a goal, but it’s not necessarily valuable when it comes to evaluating processes. Looking at past business patterns can help establish something more specific, such as getting 10 new referral partners in the next year. Setting tangible goals makes it much easier to determine progress and establish a blueprint for getting there, such as hosting events in order to reach new CPAs and turn them into partners.

2. Differentiate between long- and short-term objectives

When looking at a goal that’s a long way out, it can be easy to set it and forget it. If the goal is a yearly goal, for example, and there hasn’t been any progress on that goal in three months, there’s no real consequence to that, as there’s still plenty of time left in the year to meet that goal. Monthly objectives that lead to the bigger goal are a way to keep the big picture top of mind while working on smaller things. Looking at the previous example, monthly objectives could be having X number of meetings or calls with X number of companies to help set up these events in order to meet the yearly goal of 10 new referral partners.

“This is a great time for me to kind of just see what’s working, what’s not working, tweak our process a little bit but then really understand what we’re going to do different business-wise next year. So I’ll lay out, I’ll look at what the bank’s doing, what changes we have next year as far as products go and try and align myself with the type of business I have done to see how I can leverage that client base on maybe some new products.” Mike Wagner

3. Tell someone
Once those long- and short-term goals are set, tell someone, whether it be a manager, a colleague, an assistant, a parent, a spouse, whoever. It doesn’t matter who that person is; by sharing a goal, two things happen. The first is that it’s harder to go back and change those goals if it looks as if they’re not going to be met. The second is that person becomes a touch point to contact over time for encouragement when things are going well, and to commiserate or offer suggestions if and when it’s necessary along the way. Being accountable to someone is half the battle when achieving a goal.

4. Be bold
It feels great to meet goals, and even better to far exceed them. But the purpose of setting goals isn’t just to meet them; the purpose to setting goals should be figuring out how to better serve clients, how to work more efficiently, and how to become more knowledgeable in order to meet the goals. So don’t set the bar low just to jump over it easily. Will closing one more loan a year be an improvement? Maybe, but that’s not pushing the envelope in the long run. Don’t shy away from goals that may appear to be too lofty. 

5. Go in with open eyes
Setting goals is as much a mental exercise as anything else. No one wants to fail or fall short of their targets, but looking at it objectively and smartly is the way to succeed. Examine forecasts, look at the market, and look at past successes to help determine goals. Didn’t meet goals set last year/month/week? Why not? Reflect on missed goals not as a failure, but as a chance to further tweak and determine a better way forward. Is there a better product out there that can help in particular area? Need to just spend more time on the phone, talking to past clients? Do research before setting goals to be realistic about whether or not they’re attainable.

6. It’s never too late
Imagine: suddenly, it’s mid-February, and there’s nary a goal in sight. Don’t despair and put it off until 2020. It’s never too late to set benchmarks, either personally or professionally. If a planning cycle coincides with a more natural period, such as moving offices or changing companies, that’s okay too. Be intentional about setting goals and do so when you’re more likely to devote the necessary time and energy to the project.