Setting leadership goals for 2021 will be a unique experience. The challenges of the global COVID pandemic last year taught us many things about leadership that we won’t forget such as no-one has all the answers; you can’t control everything (or perhaps very much at all for that matter); nothing is certain; and that people can be amazingly innovative and adaptable when we have to.
Keep in mind the continued challenges that 2021 is likely to present as you set your leadership goals for the next 12 months. Here are some top tips that can help.
Firm goals, held lightly
Even in these tumultuous times we need to keep setting goals and making plans because the alternative is to sit on our hands. Which is not what leaders are paid to do. We are instead expected to make things happen, in the areas we have some control and influence over. This is the trick though in this uncertain and volatile environment. Set firm goals that you can vigorously pursue, but also hold them lightly enough that you can adjust them and the associated plans if you have to. You need to be both tough and flexible at the same time - tough in setting challenging goals, but flexible in adjusting plans and expectations whilst executing in a unpredictable environment
Leadership is about getting things done with and through others. It’s likely that your leadership goals will cascade down to those that you lead. So, when you set your goals, seriously think about who to involve - especially the people whose success in 2021 will determine yours. Leaders who set goals on their own and hand them down to the team members like God passing down the commandments from the mount are hoeing a hard row. You are much better off engaging your team in shaping the goals that you need them to be committed to. Involving them can range from collecting their thoughts beforehand and getting their feedback afterwards, right through to a genuinely collaborative goal-setting workshop. It’s up to you how much you involve them, but always keep in mind that people need to be able to weigh-in if you expect them to buy-in
People need to feel that their work has meaning and purpose beyond a pay check. This is especially true when we feel worn-out by change and uncertainty but need to keep going, nonetheless. A cause that’s bigger than ourselves can motivate, inspire and energise. Think about how your 2021 goals could serve a higher purpose and mission - one big enough to create gravity that will pull people forward. If you can work out what that is you will release a lot more commitment and motivational energy in yourself and those you seek to lead.
Make your goals SMART
The brilliant management thinker Peter Drucker coined the term SMART goals, an acronym that describes the five characteristics of an effective goal. He said that they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound. My work with clients in diverse goal-setting scenarios from whole-of-company strategic planning through to individual performance management goal setting has proven over and over the value in Drucker’s advice. SMART goals are much more likely to lead to successful outcomes.
Work on yourself
My advice to clients is to target one leadership goal toward your own growth and development. This is especially true in 2021 as there is much that we need to learn as leaders. We sure as heck can’t help out teams and our organisations do better if we are not first helping ourselves lead better. But don’t be too ambitious. Choose just one thing and stick at it until you have it nailed. Andrew Mackenzie, the former CEO of the global mining giant BHP advised new leaders that they should choose one world-class leadership skill to work on and practice it until it’s a habit. Then pick another and do the same. After a while you will discover that you’ve turned a whole bunch of world-class leadership practices into habits.