Over the past few months, I’ve been working with many clients to set goals for 2021. The process, done well, is an iterative one. It begins with the individual envisioning what is worth pursuing and, if resources were no constraint, what they would be able to accomplish. The way I describe this is that if we were speaking at the end of 2021, what would be the outcomes they could describe to me? Some examples of goals I’ve heard include:

  • Changing Career Paths

  • Attaining a promotion

  • Becoming effective at delegating

  • Implementing standard operating procedures

  • Launching a business

This then leads to a calibration and alignment exercise with key stakeholders. These stakeholders may be leaders within the organization you work for, peers, your team, or they may be loved ones, depending on the goals.

The idea of this exercise is to make sure that you and your stakeholder(s) define the goal the same way. This is an important step that many miss by jumping straight into crafting the process, timeline, resources, etc. The problem is, if you and your stakeholder(s) are not aligned on the goal itself, then all of this work to build out the plan may be for naught.

Let’s just take the first goal as an example. Let’s say it’s January 1st and you’re sitting with your manager discussing your goals for the year. You make the statement that by the end of the year you’d like to transition to another department, to pursue a new career path. Even if you’ve made forays about this idea before, the fact that you declare it as a goal may take your manager by surprise. And, your manager may need to recalibrate their goals for you over the course of the year.

I’ll give you an example from early in my own career. I had been on the operations career path and had been moving fairly quickly up the ranks. I then decided that I wanted to shift into Human Resources. In having this conversation with my manager, we were able to craft a plan that enabled me to leave my operations role, and my team, in the best possible position while incrementally transitioning to the new department. I was also able to speak with the head of Human Resources to get some sense of what I could begin learning on my own before joining the department. Collectively, we chose a timeline and developed a process that worked for everyone.

The first step is to get clear on your goals — what do you want to accomplish, and why is it important?