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How to Set Effective Goals as a New Leader

There’s no secret that business goals are essential. They allow you to measure your success and help you prioritize what is most urgent. But how do we know if the goals we’ve set for ourselves matter? I have found that when a goal aligns with the company vision, everyone on the team feels more committed and engaged in achieving it. I coach clients through this process of alignment to create meaningful business goals.









Create Effective Goals Using the SMARTER Framework

You have probably heard you should set goals using the SMART acronym. Goals should be Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timebound. And that’s a great place to start. 

I prefer to use Michael Hyatt’s SMARTER format from his book “Your Best Year Ever.”  Hyatt adds additional dimensions that make the objectives more authentic, exciting, and relevant.

  • Specific – identity precisely what you intend to achieve
  • Measurable – easy to measure and readily accessible
  • Actionable – every goal should start with an action verb (Achieve, sell, build, grow)
  • Risky – the goal should make you a little uncomfortable. Not so aggressive you wake up every night in a cold sweat, but bold enough that it’s just past your comfort zone
  • Time-keyed – every goal must have a date tied to it. The target must have a delivery date.
  • Exciting – the goal must give you energy; it must be something you get excited about the idea of achieving
  • Relevant – your goal should be aligned with your vision, values, and strategies

The SMARTER framework will help you build goals for your business that bring energy and not dread. I prefer it over the SMART framework due to three elements: 1) risk, so you push yourself, 2) relevance, so they align with the rest of the business, or 3) excitement which is what our whole company should be about anyway!

Track Your Progress Against Goals Regularly

Another critical item to consider is making your goals Measurable. When I teach business owners how to build a business plan that works, we spend much time setting or goals. And every discussion starts with the debate on making them graphable. If it’s not graphable, it’s not an objective; it’s a project. When you view your goals on a graph, they provide a much better context. In my work, I teach clients to track four elements on their charts. 

The first is the Plan number. What goal did you set for the year, and what does that number look like each month? The second is the Prior Year number; what better way to see how you’re doing than by comparing it to last year? Then we add in the Actual number. How are we performing? Finally, we add in the Forecast number. 

The last one usually has the most questions. “Why would I forecast?” Let’s say we see a change in market conditions that could move our numbers up or down in the future. It is an important exercise every month to “future cast” and revise your predictions based on trends you see. For example, if you foresee more sales, this can help inform production capacity or hiring needs before being faced with unexpected situations!

Build Business Goals that are Relevant

Setting goals is a necessary part of running any business, but as the year moves on you can lose track of why they were important in the first place. And when that happens you run the risk of losing your focus on achieving that goal.

When you create each goal take a few additional steps. Note why that goal was important to the business. Then identify who specifically on the team is responsible for achieving that goal. Finally, note a few key bullets on how the goal will be achieved and what resources will be needed to achieve it. These notes should be in front of you at every monthly business review so you never lose track of why the goal matters.

Setting Goals or Objectives is a crucial part of building your business. When creating them, follow the SMARTER framework and focus on relevance – what does this goal mean to me? Excitement- how motivated am I to achieve it? And finally, track them regularly. There’s nothing more important than being intentional about reviewing numbers, as they can be an excellent indicator of performance and can help you see problems before they occur!

Do you find this article helpful? What if you could engage in discussions on this and other topics crucial to your development as a new leader? The good news is you can. Join our group of new and growing leaders in the Clear Path Leaders Forum. I look forward to seeing you there!