2 Types of Goals You Need to Succeed in the New Year

Using a two-part goal-setting structure will get you closer to achieving your goals in 2024 and beyond.


It’s that time of year again, when organizations and individuals alike review their performance in comparison to goals set at the beginning of the year. How did you do? Did you achieve your goals? Or was it a year of disappointment and unfulfilled potential?


If you came up short, you’re not alone. A global study by The Economist found that 90% of businesses fail to achieve their strategic goals. The success rate for individuals is even lower, with an astounding 92% of people missing the mark, according to research by the University of Scranton.


What’s the culprit? What are the typical barriers that keep organizations and individuals from achieving their goals? Is it a lack of willpower? Is it a lack of discipline? While these are often contributing factors, my work with executive coaching clients has uncovered it’s something else: A structural gap in the typical goal-setting structure. What’s missing is the link between two types of goals.


SMART Goals Are a Great Start (But Not Enough)


Most goal-setting advice centers on establishing SMART goals (i.e., goals that follow the formula of being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based). To illustrate, let’s apply the SMART formula to a common personal goal that people begin at the start of the year: “I will lose 15 pounds by March 31.”


Does this short, simple goal align with the SMART framework? You could argue, yes, as it checks all the boxes. Yet, it’s the type of goal often marked by failure.


The Two-Goal Framework: Outcome Goals and Process Goals


Although the weight-loss goal meets the SMART criteria, it’s only an outcome goal. It’s what you hope to accomplish in the end. What’s missing are the steps it’ll take to be successful. That’s where process goals come into play.


Looking at it another way: Outcome goals are the scoreboard, while process goals are the playbook. Outcome goals define results, like your goal to lose 15 pounds (in this case, your scale is the scoreboard). Process goals define action, like determining that losing 15 pounds will require 50% of your daily food intake to be fruits and vegetables.


What makes process goals so powerful is that you have more control over the process than the outcome. This is because outcomes are vulnerable to external circumstances and conditions that you can’t control. But generally, the right actions and behaviors lead to the right outcomes and results.


Now apply this concept to a common business goal: increasing revenue. Here’s an example of how you might pair process goals with an outcome goal for the quarter:


Outcome Goal:

  • We’ll increase monthly recurring revenue by $50,000 by March 31.


Process Goals:

  • We’ll create a client case study highlighting one of our value-added services by Jan. 31.
  • We’ll meet with five clients, with the potential to add new service lines by March 31.
  • We’ll ask each advisory service client for a referral by March 31.
  • We’ll make 10 calls to prospective new clients each week.


Furthermore, to increase your likelihood of success, here are some additional tips to weave into this two-goal framework.


  • Write your goals in the form of commitments. Following the examples above, start your goal statements with phrases like “I will” or “We will.” Beyond strengthening your resolve with clear intentions, framing your goals this way puts them in a positive light.


  • Economize the number of goals. It’s easy to open a new year with elevated hopes, dreams, and expectations, only to experience a crash into reality when the going gets tough. Narrow your goals down to the few that are most crucial to your success, as “there will always be more good ideas than you and your teams have the capacity to execute,” according to Chris McChesney, co-author of “The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals.” In fact, McChesney and his co-authors suggest that an individual or team can only work on two or three goals at a time if they expect to be successful.


  • Shorten your year. Many annual goals are doomed from the start simply because 12 months is a long time. Complacency and procrastination set in when the finish line is too far off. To overcome these pitfalls, use a quarterly cycle. The shorter time frame brings the finish line closer, creates a sense of urgency, and enhances your ability to focus on desired outcomes. It also allows you to recalibrate when circumstances change. You get a fresh start each quarter, which increases the number of goals you can accomplish in a year. For more on this concept, check out the book, “The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months.”


  • Establish a weekly planning and review process. Schedule a weekly meeting with yourself or your team to review your outcome and progress goals for the quarter. Some goals can be evaluated with quantitative measures, like dollars, days, and other metrics. Others are more subjective and can be measured with a “Red, Yellow, or Green” framework to gauge progress. Then, translate process goals into action steps on your calendar. (Yes, schedule them to create time to work on these priorities and increase your chances of getting them done.) If you’re successful in achieving process goals, your outcome goals will likely be achieved as well.


  • Find a partner to hold you accountable. According to the American Society of Training and Development, you have a 65% chance of achieving a goal if you share your commitment with another person. Your likelihood of success jumps to 95% if you have a regular accountability check-in. Whether you meet with a business partner, work colleague, friend, mentor, or coach, structured accountability enables you to go from good intentions that fall by the wayside to the fulfillment of achieving your personal and professional goals.


While SMART goals are great, they’re not enough to take you to the finish line. Speaking from experience, using a two-part goal-setting structure will provide you with a higher rate of success in achieving your goals. And in cases where the goal isn’t met? Trust me, you’ll get closer than you would have without following this process.


This article was first published in my Leadership Matters column for the Illinois Society of CPAs Insight magazine.


Jon Lokhorst, CPA, CSP, PCC, is a leadership speaker, trainer, and coach, and the author of Mission-Critical Leadership: How Smart Managers Lead Well in All Directions. Before launching Your Best Leadership LLC, Lokhorst enjoyed a 30-plus-year career as a CPA, CFO, and organizational leader. He can be reached at jon@yourbestleadership.com.




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