Goal-Setting ABCs

“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.” -- John Doerr

Some inexperienced leaders struggle to tie company goals to individual efforts. Often, their goals feel disconnected, which leads to a lack of understanding of how they will be measured. There are so many frameworks; it is difficult for them to know they are doing it right. After many years of managing goal-setting processes, I am sharing with you some best practices. Whether you are using a fancy framework or keeping it simple, these practices should help you get through the process.

Goal-Setting ABCs

Goal-setting is an organizing principle and planning model of what everyone should be doing. When it comes to execution – it identifies what matters most. As a general rule, this process should:

  • Create alignment and accountability
    • Align the goals with the purpose of the organization (vision, mission, values)
    • Cascade from Company → Teams → Individuals
  • Bridge the gap between strategy with execution
    • What are the key results that will get you from current to future state?
    • What projects, upskilling, resources are necessary to achieve the results?
    • Will accomplishing the result be sufficient enough to achieve the objective?
    • What dependencies exist?
  • Increase commitment at all levels of the organization
    • What is the mechanism to review and ensure it is satisfactorily completed?
    • How will you know you’ve achieved the goal?
    • What conversations should take place?
    • How do you collect and act on feedback?
    • What does recognition look like if the goal is achieved?

Best Practices

The point of goal-setting is FOCUS — done right, the process will promote prioritization and enhance productivity. Objectives are what you want to achieve. Key Results are the high-impact actions you will take to achieve the objective. A quick goal-setting formula based on the OKR format found in Measure What Matters (Doerr) is:

Objective #1: We/I will (verb) + (what) + (from X to Y)

as measured by the following results:

(Key Result #1) to be completed by (date)

(Key Result #2) to be completed by (date)

(Key Result #3) to be completed by (date)


  • (+) Include learning objectives, and projects
  • (+) Include a quality expectation with quantitative key results
  • (+) Have a clear operating rhythm to review and adjust. Recommended Frequency:
    • Individuals – reviewed weekly with direct line managers
    • Team – review 2x a month in team meetings
    • Sr. Managers – review 1x a month with their teams.


  • (-) Have too many goals. Remember, 20% of activities produce 80% of the results.
  • (-) Make all your goals stretch goals. People need to believe they can attain it.
  • (-) Hold on to an outdated goal. Be flexible and modify when things change.
  • (-) Do in a vacuum. Use top-down and bottom-up goal setting to gain commitment.

There is some criticism that goal-setting practices are outdated, focuses employees too narrowly, creates problematic behavior, and demotivates employees. However, if you apply a critical eye to vision alignment, pair quality with quantity objectives, and make goals attainable, goal-setting is an excellent tool. Decide what level of risk you will tolerate. Adjust to weed out bad behavior and focus on execution. As you prepare for the 2H of the year, it is an excellent time to review and reset your goals.



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