There is a mountain of reasonable workplace goals you could set to fuel your professional progress. Manage a new project, expand your influence, and improve time-management are a named few. But the most important of the goals will help you develop into a courageous leader.
Now, more than ever, organizations need leaders who have adaptive and cognitive skills that can help position their businesses for the future. They need leaders who possess interpersonal and emotional skills that will allow them to foster relationships among cross-functional digital teams and help younger leaders thrive in a constantly shifting (corporate and non-profit) world.
Your organization needs you—to step up and step into your greatness as a leader. So, this year, when you dust off your previous performance review to reassess old workplace goals and prepare yourself to select new ones, be sure to prioritize pursuits that align your efforts to the needs of your business.
To help you get started, here are 3 valuable workplace goals you can establish and practice every day to help you navigate through uncertainty and lead courageously.
1. Take a Risk, Every Day
On the surface, setting a goal to take one risk each day may not seem like a serious or impressive aim. But don’t be deceived—it is a powerful, foundational action you can take to propel you down the path of becoming a better leader.
Risks are central to courage, making risk-taking central to courageous leadership. Risks are defined as situations involving exposure to danger or difficulty. And those difficulties can manifest in the workplace in a physical, social, or psychological capacity.
Since we’re biologically wired to avoid danger, we can easily register risk-taking as antagonistic and maybe even unnecessary. But taking risks also paves the way to growth. In fact, psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that people who actualize their potential make risk-taking routine. They choose growth over fear consistently.
Being a courageous leader means choosing growth over fear consistently. When you make a habit out of taking risks, you get consistent practice in acknowledging, settling into, and taming discomfort. The leader who hasn’t practiced being uncomfortable may find current workplace challenges—that call for radical innovation, company culture overhauls, and upskilling employees—too overwhelming to address. That leader may double down on the status quo to avoid failure or keep quiet to circumvent humiliation. But when you’ve built up the ability to be uncomfortable, you better position yourself to instigate change.
Your commitment to taking risks every day is mutually beneficial for you and your employer. You walk away with self-discovery, improved skills, and expansion of your comfort zone. Your employer increases its ability to fail-fast, innovate, and transform itself into a courageous organization.
The professional risks you take on daily do not need to be blockbusters. In fact, you should start small. Smaller risks provide opportunities to flirt with the unknown, interpret emotions, and evaluate outcomes in low-stakes environments. They help you navigate within uncertainty without exposure to grave danger. Having success with small risks allows you to build upon those successes with larger risks involving larger consequences (and rewards).
I have found that there are two main ways you can fulfill a workplace goal of one risk a day. You can move through your day with a heightened awareness of what causes you discomfort and choose at the moment to take a risk, or you can plan your risks out each week. If you have a larger goal that you’ve set, you can identify smaller risks within the goal to tackle each day.
2. Ask More Questions, Every Day
Curiosity has been hailed as one of the most critical qualities a leader should possess. It is a strong desire to know or learn something and, in today’s workplace and economy, there’s a lot to learn. Employers need leaders who ask more questions.
You may think that this is an easy enough action and doesn’t require being made into a workplace goal. But think again. Your brain is wired to make assumptions—to settle on what you think you already know.
A common assumption you can make in the workplace is to think that things really are the way that you see them—that there’s no room for growth or that the procurement process will never change. Without asking questions, this assumption could prevent you from discovering creative solutions to an underlying problem.
Another assumption you may hold is that the way you feel about someone is the way they actually are. This assumption, if left unchecked, could lead you to misunderstand your teammates and complicate collaboration. You might even assume that you are smarter than someone who doesn’t share your point of view. Without probing for information, this assumption could prevent you from folding in other people’s perspectives and gaining a better world view of a challenge.
Making assumptions is a way for your brain to conserve energy because assumptions offer an efficient way to process your environment. But to become a better, more courageous leader, you’ll need to challenge your assumption by developing a rhythm of asking questions.
Curiosity fosters openness, creativity, growth, achievement, and learning. On top of that, asking questions—for clarification or discovery—creates an entry point into intimidating conversations that you may have otherwise avoided. Your workplace goal to be more curious also has lasting benefits for your company because it invites awareness of external pressures, creative problem-solving, high-speed adaptability, and better decision-making.
There’s no right or wrong way to ask more questions. You do, however, want to be mindful of the energy you attach to the questions you ask out loud, in front of people. A line of inquiry that comes in an overly combative, intrusive, or trivializing way may unintentionally deplete this goal from the goodness it offers.
3. Make Meaningful Connections, Every Day
In an increasingly electronically connected workplace, personal relationships are essential. How often do you shoot off a text, email, or Slack message to a teammate without concerning yourself about whether you are connecting personally?
Setting an everyday workplace goal to make meaningful connections with colleagues can help you build critical relationships that cultivate trust, respect, and compassion—even as you challenge each other.
What qualifies as meaningful? Experiences, conversations, or other exchanges that provide value and have meaning to both people. In fact, meaningful connections often include elements of vulnerability because when you really connect, you expose your need to be seen, heard, and accepted. That, in itself, is an act of personal courage.
On the other hand, connections that are transactional or asymmetric (beneficial to only one person) come off as superficial and dishonest. It is especially important to be vigilant over the execution of this goal to ensure that attempts to connect do not turn into empty efforts to check a box.
In my experience as a manager, I’ve seen that a personal connection goal can benefit teammates who have a fast-paced, competitive work-style and are more focused on projects than people. This type of goal can also help more passive employees prioritize relationship-building in a way that feels honest to them.
A workplace goal focused on connection can assist you in showing up in relationships more powerfully and intentionally and help people to believe in you. In addition, your ability as a leader to better connect with your team helps your company better address the needs of and care for its people.
Setting a goal to make a meaningful connection every day doesn’t mean that you need to scheduled daily Zoom calls with a different team member to get face time or ask them about their weekend. The only shift you may need to make is to purposefully elevate and personalize the conversations you are already having.
The Bottom Line
There are an endless amount of workplace goals you could set for yourself in the next month or year. But the ones you should prioritize are those that help you become a more courageous leader—a leader who faces professional challenges for reasons that are worthwhile to their companies (and themselves).
As you consider which goals you will etch into your next performance review and work toward for the months to come, consider the following three key ideas.
First, take a risk every day. Being a courageous leader means choosing growth over fear consistently. When you make a habit out of taking risks, you get consistent practice in acknowledging, settling into, and taming discomfort.
Second, ask more questions every day. To become a better, more courageous leader, you’ll need to challenge your assumption by developing a rhythm of asking questions. Curiosity fosters openness, creativity, growth, achievement, and learning.
Last, make meaningful connections every day. A workplace goal focused on connection can assist you in showing up in relationships more honestly, powerfully, and intentionally and help people to believe in and follow you.
More Tips on Setting Workplace Goals
- 15 Personal Goals for Work to Help You Succeed in Your Career
- 15 Performance Goals For Delivering Uncommon Results At Work
- How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)
Featured photo credit: ConvertKit via unsplash.com
|||^||Stanford Business: Managing in the Moment: How to Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable|
|||^||The Atlantic: The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain|
|||^||Yale Scientific: How the Brain Saves Energy: The Neural Thermostat|
|||^||Greater Good Magazine: Six Surprising Benefits of Curiosity|