The Two Kinds of Goals You Need to Be Using in Your Business
and an innovative courage-based planning tool to use when your self-doubt comes between you and your goals
How many times have you set goals in your business?
And how many of those times did you immediately put them out of sight and forget about them?
Or worse, how many times did you set a goal, and fall short of reaching it?
The thing is, as easy as goals sound, they’re actually incredibly complex. No one type of goal setting works for everyone, for starters. After working with thousands of clients, I’ve seen almost as many different structures, motivators, and methods.
Goal setting ends up being a little bit like shopping for clothes: you try a bunch on, you take some home, some you thought you’d like but you get them home and question your judgement, you outgrow them, or maybe what once looked good on you just doesn’t anymore. And that’s okay! Like with clothes, you don’t have to stick with one system of goal setting forever.
There is, however, a general concept of goal setting I think you should know about: actionable vs. target goals. These are my terms for them, but you may also hear of them referred to as leading vs. lagging indicators.
A target goal is the goal you want to eventually hit (like a certain revenue number or volume of sales or number of days off, etc.) and an actionable goal is the actions you have control over to reach that target (number of people you reach out to, emails sent, events attended, etc.). You need both together for your goal setting to be effective.
Let’s go deeper.
These are the easiest to understand because they’re what we’re all taught. SMART goals are target goals. These are the goals we put on our walls or declare to our coaches. They’re the ones we typically celebrate.
However, ultimately you have no control over whether you reach them or not. You can’t guarantee people will say yes to working with you, and you don’t know what factors could get in your way. These goals can play off our egos big time, and they can also send us into self-doubt spirals as we try to set them. Setting a goal too low can be demotivating, but a goal that’s too high can be daunting and demoralizing if you don’t reach it. And the opposite can also be true: it can be motivating to reach a lower goal, or to strive for a high one.
If you only track the progress you’re making towards your target, you don’t have the information to course-correct or adjust. You might be left just hoping you reach the goal, but not knowing how to make it happen.
Ultimately you do need to have target goals because they help inform your actionable goals.
Actionable goals are critical because they’re the things you have control over. They’re what drive the results. You can also measure how your actions are performing, so you have data to adjust your strategy as you go. They’re HOW you’re going to achieve your targets, and they’re the ones you focus on every day.
An actionable goal could be something like the number of people you reach out to. For example, I used to reach out to five people each week. I can track that number, and I can track the results from that. Then I can celebrate when I’ve done that consistently over a period of time.
Another example might be email subscribers. You can’t control how many people sign up, but you can control how many times you promote your email list or how many people you invite to join it. In this case, inviting people to join would be a leading indicator (or actionable goal) and the number of people on your list would be the lagging indicator (or target goal). You can see if your actions are working by tracking the results.
Actionable goals are what you can focus on, tick off each day, and congratulate yourself for. Without actionable goals the target goal is just an objective without a roadmap. You maintain control over the goal this way instead of just hoping to achieve it.
How They Work Together
Once you’ve settled on your target goal, you can reverse-engineer how you want to achieve it. For example, if you charge each client $5000 and you want to make $200,000, then you know you have to work with 40 clients in a year (also a target goal). If that seems insane, then you can reconfigure your offerings. Can you have more expensive offerings? Can you have an offering that takes less of your time? Can you hire someone to work with your clients on your behalf? Do you really want to make $200k?
Let’s say you can, in fact, work with 40 clients in a year, then you might need to take actions to get those 40 clients. Now you have the information you need to come up with an appropriate plan. Maybe you could:
· Ask existing clients for referrals because you know at least 50% of your clients refer. If you ask two people each week for a referral, you’ll fill your roster in no time.
· Be a guest speaker at events. You know that when you get to speak you get at least 3 clients, so your actionable goal could be to reach out for potential speaking opportunities.
· Improve your client retention rate and repeat business. Maybe you decide to implement sending weekly progress updates to your clients which will keep them motivated and on track.
· Commit to emailing your list weekly. You know that there are lots of potential clients on your email list, so keeping in touch with them and building a strong relationship will be effective.
For each of those you would test, measure, and adjust your strategy according to what’s working.
Now, this all sounds rather methodical and calculated. For some people, that works great. But what happens when your fear and self-doubt show up and prevent you from taking effective action?
I have a plan for that, too!
Sas Petherick is the genius coach who taught me this tool, and I have found it incredibly helpful to use with my clients.
This is a tool that allows for us to be human in the planning process. We use a circular system because goals that are linear rarely work. Something always gets in the way, then we can’t move forward. This way can help break us out of that cycle, and it also gives us a visual representation to use daily. Plus, it’s sooooo satisfying to tally up all the things you’ve done!
Find yourself a whiteboard, ideally about 1.5’ x 2’, some markers, and some small Post-It notes, and draw up this diagram. Find somewhere by your desk to put it, and get to work!
Step 1: See if you can break your goal down into something you’d specifically like to accomplish in the next 90 days. It’s okay if it will take longer or if you can’t get that specific, but see if you can. (This is a target goal)
Step 2: Make a list of all the action steps you can think of to achieve your goal.
Step 3: Write each action step on a Post-It note. Pay close attention to which actions are passive actions (actions like reading books, learning something, etc.). Try to keep your passive actions to a minimum and focus on the actions that move the goal forward.
Step 4: Arrange the Post-It notes on the board in the appropriate circles (doable, easy, uncertain, and risky).
Step 5: From a healthy place, potentially with your coach, think of a few helpful beliefs you’d like to keep in mind as you work on these action steps. Write these on your board.
Step 6: From a healthy place, think through the obstacles you might encounter. There are reasons you haven’t achieved this goal already, so think about what those are and make note of them. Then think about what you can do when that obstacle arises. Write these on your board.
Step 7: Start doing things! Commit to moving at least one task to the “done” section every day for the next week. It is key to start building momentum with some quick wins right away.
Step 8: As you clear actions from the board, move the remaining actions towards the centre if they start feeling easier to you.
Step 9: Pay special attention to the actions that continue to feel risky or uncertain, even as you gain momentum with other things. This is where your self-doubt is likely showing up, or you need some help to get that action done. Stuff WILL happen to prevent you from taking action. When it does, refer to your obstacle notes or your healthy belief notes. The actions that aren’t getting done are perfect topics for coaching calls. This is all completely normal, so take the time to dig deep and see what’s going on.
I suspect I’ve given you a lot to think about today, but the real key is to take ACTION! Experiment and see what actions feel easy to you, and which ones you need to reflect on.
Just like everything in your business, it’s important to find what works for you. And it’s okay if what works for you now isn’t what works for you in 6 months from now. Allow yourself the grace of listening to your own wisdom and following your own motivation.
If you’d like to get some help setting your own target goals, deciding what action to take, and exploring any self-doubt that comes up as you tackle them, let’s talk. Hop on my calendar here and we’ll see what next steps make the most sense for you.