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The 5 Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make in Goal Setting

MISTAKE #1: SETTING ONE BIG GOAL

The leader sets one BIG goal - usually financial. For example, “Achieve 300 Million in Revenue.”  The goal, for the most part is fairly arbitrary, but the leader setting the goal is very attached to it. 

This kind of goal is irrelevant to virtually everyone except the leader setting it. Naturally, this kind of goal is seldom attained. And then when it isn’t attained, the leader becomes extremely frustrated and disappointed in his/her team resulting in mutual loss of trust and confidence between the leader and the team. 

One construction company leader I worked with, had previously made this mistake for many, many years and attempted to resolve the problem by reorganizing the company every year! This of course, set off a whole series of other negative (and costly) outcomes that only exacerbated the problem. 

MISTAKE #2: SETTING TOO MANY GOALS

Many leaders fall into the trap of setting too many goals. They typically don’t intend to have too many goals, but rather they lose focus during the goal setting process and get too granular. Essentially, everything that could be a goal becomes a goal.

In preparing for a client VIP Strategy Day, I always ask the leader for a copy of the team’s goals and strategies. A dead giveaway that the leader has previously set too many goals is when he/she tells me that it will take a few days to get all the spreadsheets and tracking program reports to me. They should be able to send the goals to me in a split second. 

The problem with having a long list of goals is that it’s unwieldy to manage and impossible for the leader to keep his/her team focused on what really matters. The leadership team spends an inordinate amount of time in their offices wrestling with the elaborate spreadsheets and tracking programs rather than leading and removing roadblocks for people so they can actually achieve the goals.

MISTAKE #3: NOT IDENTIFYING SPECIFIC STRATEGIES


Other leaders do a great job of setting a manageable number of well constructed goals but stop short of engaging their team in identifying the specific strategies and execution approaches for achieving the goals. 

Without tangible strategies, the team lacks direction on how to proceed. So everyone goes off on their own to devise their own strategies based on past experiences and individual preferences. It’s much like a shotgun start in a golf tournament where the tournament start is signaled, the golf cart drivers hit the accelerator and everyone scatters in every possible direction. However, in the case of goal setting, the leaders’ company or capital project has a lot higher stakes than that golf tournament!

Having  completed  hundreds of team assessments on capital projects,  I can tell you with certainty, that most projects are woefully lacking in specific strategies. And without strategies the team has little confidence that they will achieve them. And lack of confidence destroys motivation and desire.

MISTAKE #4: NOT GETTING TEAM ALIGNMENT AND BUY-IN 

Setting goals is one thing, in fact that’s the easy part. Getting team members aligned and enthusiastic about achieving them, however, is a totally different animal. The leader is only one person. He/she cannot possibly achieve the goals alone. And without team alignment and buy-in, the goals (and possibly the company or project) are doomed.

So often leaders determine the goals and then decree them from “on high” with little to no engagement from the team members whose job it is to ensure the goals are achieved. The leader fails to tap into the knowledge, expertise, and wisdom of his/her people. The team isn’t engaged in determining the goals and strategies or the risks and interdependencies among them.

THE RESULT? Lots of great looking and sounding goals and strategies without a team motivated to achieve them. And lot’s of cynicism and eye rolls over lofty goals that people don’t believe in.

MISTAKE #5: QUICKLY LOSING SIGHT OF THE GOALS

Sometimes leaders set outstanding goals and even get team alignment and buy-in. They’re excited, and their team is excited about achieving the goals. This is going to be the year of greatness!

And then, it’s as if the goals pull a disappearing act. In the old days, they would be bound in a handsome booklet and stuck in the file cabinet to collect dust. Now they’re lost in a laptop, but the result is the same. They’re out of sight and out of mind. No one is paying any attention to them. The goals, and progress toward them, are not  sufficiently focused on, talked about, actively implemented, tracked or reviewed. There’s no course corrections either. 

The annual goal setting check-the-box exercise is over and everyone has returned to fire fighting. Alas! It’s going to be another mediocre year. Just like last year. And the year before that.


All peak performers, top athletes and truly successful business leaders have one thing in common. They set big goals, and take decisive action to accomplish them. 

Are you crystal clear on your company’s or project’s path for success in 2020? Is your team aligned on the strategies and execution approaches you believe are essential in 2020? Without a solid plan, and an aligned team, 2020 could end up being just a photocopy of last year.

If you’re wanting this year to be better, then let’s talk about how you and your leadership team might be a good fit for a VIP Strategy Day.

My exclusive VIP Strategy Day is for successful construction company and capital project leaders who are committed to achieving their biggest goals and rising to the next level of peak performance and success. 

Reach out at [email protected]


Hi, I'm Sally, I help leaders on capital projects and in construction companies transform their leadership ability so they can lead their team with excellence and deliver extraordinary results that other people (and often even themselves) thought were impossible. If you're ready to transform your leadership results, reach out to Sally so you can get started now.

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