Vistage Live podcast

How do successful CEOs and business owners set goals?

Subscribe to Vistage Insights

Throughout my career as a Strategist and Business Coach, I’ve worked with over 150 CEOs and business owners to help them design their ideal lives and set goals for personal and professional success. To do this, I help them explore what it means to live their best possible lives, extract more from their businesses and set real value-driving goals. If you are about to finalise your goals for the new year, here are a few things to consider:

1. Learn the lessons from the past year

Successful leaders don’t just dive into setting goals – they take some time to reflect on their progress over the previous year and understand their baseline. They identify what worked well for them, where and how they were derailed, and what they learned.  They assess whether they are spending enough of their time on what really matters to them, and what they want their next year to have in it that the past year didn’t.  They think about their legacy and the impact they want to have over the next 5-10 years.  Then they set about intentionally designing their lives.

2. Don’t fixate on work/life balance

I don’t believe in the concept of work/life balance, it is way too limiting.  Leaders who keep their life and passions separate from their work can miss combinations that make their heart sing and pay their bills at the same time.  There is no work/life balance, there is just life.  The real question for leaders is – are you spending yours doing what you love?  If not, it’s time to get creative and make some changes. Over the past 6 years, I’ve seen incredible results where the business is aligned to the leader’s purpose or passion.

3. Get clear on what you really want

It sounds simple, but many business leaders have lost touch with what would really make them happy.  They are so focused on doing what is right for their business and their families that they struggle to identify what it is that they truly want for themselves, or they feel selfish pursuing interests and goals that are for them alone.

If you don’t know what you really want, think back to when you were a young child, when you did things just for the pure joy of the activity and not to earn money or please someone else. What did you love to do then? Chances are it will give you a clue as to what you really love to do now. Write your ‘bucket list’ – the things you want to be, do and have, the dreams you always wanted to fulfil.  And for those who know what they want to do but think it might be selfish to pursue your passions, remember – successful leaders lead lives by design, they are not just drifting or driven by the needs and agendas of others.  Just as a parents role is to model the sort of person that they want their child to become – and what better role model than someone who is going after their dreams, pursuing their passions and happy with their life?

4. Don’t just focus on the coming year

Just like businesses, people need both short and long term goals.  Having a vision for what their ideal life looks like in 5 years helps business leaders to set powerful 12-month goals that move them toward that imagined future. One leader came into our goals session with a 12-month goal to get a new CEO role, and left with a vision for a new company.  Today that company is about to list on the ASX.

5. Carefully craft your new year goals

This is the ‘make or break’ step for many leaders.  The trick here is to bring your goal to life, be specific enough that you eliminate the ‘wriggle room’ that comes from being too loose in describing your goal, and tune in to your motivation for achieving the goal.

To bring your goal to life, imagine in vivid detail what it looks like when it has been completed.  Describe it as clearly and powerfully as you can.  What exactly would you see, hear, touch?  When do you want to achieve the goal by? To build your commitment, think about why the goal matters.  What do you stand to gain if you achieve it? Who else wins? Who loses if you fail to achieve your goal?

6. Consider adopting a life-changing habit

Some of the most powerful goals I saw business leaders set, especially in their personal lives, were commitments to behaviours that would really impact one or more areas of their lives. The key is to make it a tangible behaviour so that you can create a habit.  For example, one busy leader who travelled extensively set targets for numbers of nights at home, date nights and vacation days – including mini breaks with his children one-on-one.  No wriggle room – very easy to track and much more powerful than setting a loose intention to “spend more time with family”.

7. Make it your breakthrough year

 The most successful business owners and CEOs don’t just set goals, they live them. Identify what would really take your life and business to the next level, write it down, and then focus on this for the next 90 days.  Imagine the impact of dedicating the first 90 minutes of every working day on your breakthrough game plan. Think about how you might drive your business forward if every one of your team were implementing their own 90-day breakthrough game plan.

8. Keep score

Leaders know that KPIs and business review meetings are essential to successful execution.  It’s the same with your own goals. Make sure that you are clear on how you are going to measure your progress, then record your results and reflect on your progress. Most leaders find that having someone to hold them accountable for their progress helps, and can also provide another perspective to steer them around roadblocks that would otherwise hold them up.

9. Take the first action step

The longer you take to start acting on your goals, especially the big ones, the less likely that you will ever take action.  No matter how small the step, start moving towards your ideal life and business now.

This simple roadmap will help you to:

  • Identify the areas you most want to focus on in the new year
  • Create the goals you want and the actions you need to take
  • Develop your 12-month roadmap to achieve these

About the author: Anne-Marie Clark

Anne-Marie Clark, Director, Talino, Business Growth Strategist, Business Coach, Speaker, Strategy Facilitation and Execution.  Anne-Marie works with business owners and leaders who want to take their business and leadership to the next level.  Each year Anne-Marie conducts a number of Goals and Strategy Workshops for groups of business owners and leaders who are part of Vistage.

Share via social media