As a manager, setting goals is very important for you and the staff under you. It provides purpose and gives direction, ensuring people can be aware of what they are working towards and how to go about it. However, it is just as important that they are realistic.

It can be very easy for those in leadership to be excessively ambitious, with grand ideas of doubling profits or achieving extraordinary increases in productivity. But setting goals that cannot be achieved is an extremely negative thing to do. It damages everybody’s morale when it becomes clear they cannot be met and reduces confidence in those who set them.

There are several steps you can take to help make your goals realistic. It helps to brainstorm. You should discuss with others what can be achieved, rather than what you would want to achieve. Above all, you can follow the SMART acronym – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/realistic, and Time-Bound.

Within this framework, you are being clear about what you want to do, working out just what success means, establishing that it is possible and that it matters, as well as setting a time scale that is sufficiently long, but also not too extended – a “jam tomorrow” attitude will mean tomorrow never comes.

Another way of approaching the question is to understand the purpose behind your goals. The question of “why” really matters. Is it to make more money? Is it to win some kind of industry award? Is it about the collective benefits of everyone in a team training for and passing courses that improve their skills?

In setting goals, you must be willing to think through your ideas before implementing them and humble enough to drop some.

That means, odd though it may seem, like a lot of ambitious ideas will end up in the bin. But that will actually be a good thing if they have been dumped because they are not realistic or achievable enough, leaving you free to focus on what is achievable.

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