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Are You Making These 2 Goal-Setting Mistakes?

by Bill Cates

Are you beginning to think about your goals for next year?

My friend and colleague Dr. Nido Qubein (president of High Point University) says, “Goals are simply a way of breaking a vision into smaller workable units.”

Others believe that a goal without a plan is merely a wish and wishes don’t produce results.

Are you setting these two types of goals?

Achievement Goals

Achievement goals are usually longer range in nature, i.e., monthly, quarterly, or yearly. These usually center around GDC, commissions, number of new clients, number of referrals, etc. The number you wish to achieve. You probably already know the importance of these kinds of goals.

Behavioral Goals

Behavioral goals relate to the actions you need to create to reach your achievement goals. These are usually tracked on a daily, weekly, and/or monthly basis. You take your achievement goals and then break them down into the very specific behaviors necessary to reach them. Don’t expect to reach your achievement goals if you never take the time to get very clear on what behaviors (actions) are required.

Goal-Setting Mistake #1 – Not Using Accountability

Let’s say you have a goal of acquiring 25 new clients in the next calendar year. (For some, this is a big goal. For others, this is a small goal. It all depends on your business model.)

When it comes to making your behavior goals, most advisors can benefit from some type of accountability. Don’t assume that accountability needs to be some sort of punishment or “hammer” that comes down. I know one performance coach who won’t even use that word given the negative connotation that many give it. He prefers to use the word “support.”

Personally, I don’t really care what you call it. We set goals (achievement and behavioral) because we want to push ourselves, we want to make things happen that might not happen if left to our comfort zones.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to remain at rest. Unless acted upon by an outside force.” Accountability is that “outside force” we all need to step out of our comfort zone and create the actions necessary to make our goals.

Measurement is a Form of Accountability

When I set my goals, I like to measure my behavior on a daily basis. For example, these days I’m trying to work fewer hours. So, I bought myself a timer that counts up. I am keeping track of how many hours I work each day, each week, and each month. This awareness and desire to beat previous weeks or months, helps me make better decisions. The accountability at work here is a mix of measurement and self-competitiveness.

Sometimes I tap into other relationships with colleagues, friends, and team members to hold me accountable to what I say I want to do or how I want to be. Yes, you can use some form of “light punishment” if that works for you. And you can add celebration and reward into the mix. When it comes to accountability, one size does not fit all.

Goal-Setting Mistake #2 – Not Considering Potential Obstacles

With your goal setting, you really want to do your best to pre-determine what obstacles you may encounter along the way. Once done, you can adjust your goals and/or have plans in place to counterbalance those potential obstacles.

One technique I learned from Dan Sullivan ( was what he called the “Strategy Circle.” Basically, you set a goal. Then you list all the obstacles that will likely prevent you from reaching that goal. From each obstacle comes a strategy to neutralize (or reduce) that obstacle. This body of work becomes your action plan. I’ve used this strategy more than once and it always helps.

By the way, obstacles are not always logistical. More often than not, they are psychological. Please make sure you and your team members don’t ignore and work with the psychological resistance that can occur.

In summary, set behavioral goals to reach your achievement goals. And always consider the obstacles and barriers to success and plan accordingly.

In Summary

  1. Set Achievement Goals that will help you grow.
  2. Set Behavior Goals to create the actions needed to make your bigger goals.
  3. Employ Accountability to make sure you keep stretching your comfort zone.
  4. Consider potential Obstacles so you’re ready to move through them.

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