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Published on December 23, 2020

3 Workplace Goals To Set For Professional Development

3 Workplace Goals To Set For Professional Development

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.[1] And those difficulties can manifest in the workplace in a physical, social, or psychological capacity.

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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.[2]

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.

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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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.

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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.

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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

Featured photo credit: ConvertKit via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Candace Doby

Speaker, author and coach helping young leaders build courage in themselves.

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Last Updated on March 4, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting guide.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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