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How to achieve your 2014 leadership goals

4 min read


It’s that time of year when many of us, with the best of intentions will write a leadership development plan, or establish goals for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, most of us will fail to achieve those goals.

Why? We fail for a lot of reasons, most importantly, we underestimate how hard it is to change behavior.

There’s others reasons too. We often set high-level, nebulous leadership goals such as “be more strategic” or “be a better leader” without having a way to measure our progress towards achieving that goal. There’s no accountability, no way to see if we are making progress, and no motivation to keep trying.

I recently attended a conference where leadership-development guru, author and coach Marshall Goldsmith was a keynote speaker.

He shared a technique that’s he’s been using for years that helps him achieve his goals. At the end of his presentation, he asked if anyone was interested in participating in some research (for 10 days) using a similar technique to leave a business card. He said most people won’t — and if they did, they wouldn’t stick with it.

Well I did — I haven’t given up — and I’m loving the results! Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Establish your goals

Establish a number of daily, behavioral objectives — things that you have an opportunity to do every day and can answered with a number (i.e., 1 to 7 scale). It’s important that your establish your own objectives — things that are important to you — but here’s a list to choose from if you need some examples or help getting started:

1. I did my best to really listen to others.
2. I had positive interactions with others.
3. I did my best to be happy.
4. I set measurable goals for the day.
5. I did my very best to achieve my goals.
6. I added value today.
7. I inspired someone today.
8. I helped someone else be successful or solve their own problem.
9. I was engaged in my work.
10. My work had meaning.

Step 2: Daily follow-up and measurement

There are a number of ways to do this. You can have a good friend call you or e-mail every day and ask you to score yourself on each question. No long-winded analysis, beating yourself up, or excuses — just a number. You or your friend should keep track of your answers on a spreadsheet.

Or, you can use the tool that I’m using for the research. You are welcome to participate in Marshall’s study using simply providing your e-mail to this link. There’s even an accountability app that does the emails and scoring for you.

I’m not a behavioral psychologist, but I could guess why this seems to working so well. When I first started answering the questions, my scores were pretty low. However, responded to that darn e-mail every day has motivated me to really pay attention — and try harder — to things that may have gotten overlooked without the reminder.

Although I haven’t seen my results yet, I know my numbers are going up. And just like when you step on the scale when dieting and see those numbers go down, it’s motivating to see the measurable results!

I wish you success and happiness in 2014!

Dan McCarthy is the director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire. He writes the award-winning leadership-development blog Great Leadership and is consistently ranked as one of the top digital influencers in leadership and talent management. He’s a regular contributor to SmartBlog on Leadership. E-mail McCarthy.