“Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.” – Walt Disney

Goal-setting is the process which drives your business forward. Whether it is company-wide, “big-picture” goals or narrow, specific goals for a particular employee, setting goals is among the most important duties of a leader. Yet, many of the business owners I work with admit that they rarely think about setting goals. I hope to help some of you change that today!

There is more to setting goals than simply writing out a wish list. Poorly conceived goals will not only be ineffective, they may even make things worse. Here are four components that must be present in every goal you set – whether for yourself, for a specific employee, or for your organization in general:

  • Measureable. Your goals must be specific, and they must be measurable. “Improve sales” is not a good goal – “improve sales by 10% this quarter” is, to a specific dollar amount is even clearer. Translate big-picture objectives like “improve customer service” into measurable goals such as “reduce customer complaints by 25% in 2012.”

  • Clear accountability. There must be accountability for every aspect of the goal. Who is responsible for ensuring that it is met? In some cases, this may be a single employee. In others, there may be different employees responsible for each element of the goal. Clearly define the responsibilities of each employee as it relates to your goal so that there can be no misunderstanding.

  • Defined timeframe. Effective goals can’t be open-ended. In addition, it’s usually better to break long-term goals into shorter, intermediate benchmark goals with  time frames in order to keep on track. Giving your sales team a goal for each week is more effective than giving them a yearly goal.

  • Written. Finally, your goals must be written down. When employees are involved, I highly recommend getting the signature of those that will be held accountable.

Effective goal-setting is the key to moving your organization forward. Without goals, your team has no direction. Dan Dierdorf (pro-football player) once said that “If I’ve got correct goals, and if I keep pursuing them the best way I know how, everything falls into line. If I do the right thing right, I’m going to succeed.” Effective goals not only define the “right thing” but they also provide a road map for getting it done.

How effective are the goals you set in your organization, both for yourself and for others? Do you have any tips or techniques to share regarding goal-setting? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!