Drive your performance forwards, with goal setting – OR NOT?

We’ve all heard the theory – setting goals can improve performance by giving you a focal point, preventing wasted effort and giving you something to strive for.

Goal setting can improve your performance, how do you set yours?

As a business coach I frequently have conversations about goals with clients, prospects and other contacts that I simply help. There is a fundamental question, I’d like to know what you think?

Set High Goals or lower goals?

I sat this weekend watching a couple of children trying really hard to achieve something that they were not at all likely to manage. One was getting upset as he realised that he couldn’t get there. The other tried harder and harder, she wasn’t going to be beaten by a target. Which are you more like? Which are different members of your team more like?

The basic question is – which is right?

The case for High Goals.

Set the goal high so that if you achieve it you will feel incredible, have boosted performance by an amazing amount and transformed whatever you were doing. If (and being a really positive person you won’t admit the possibility of this) you miss the target, you will still have done incredibly well. It’s a bit like the saying

“Leap for the stars, if you miss you’ll land on the moon; but aim for the moon and you’ll land back on the earth”

The case for lower goals

Set a more realistic goal, ensure you can achieve it and feel wonderful for getting there. The trouble with setting a goal that is “too stretching” is that (at best) it can de-motivate and maybe even damage morale, and people’s beliefs.

Set realistic goals

Now I know the obvious statement here is to set something in between, the “realistic goal”. But is that not another way of saying set a low goal, or maybe set a high goal and believe you can do it?

I know that goals can improve performance; I’ve seen it work for many firms and clients. In fact I wrote about goals in fundamental-principles-to-help-you-succeed (click to read it). They can help you achieve more and go faster.

But I’ve also seen many people “damaged” by setting something that they didn’t achieve. I see them get misused, did you read why-goals-strategies-visions-and-missions-drive-me-mad?

What do you think – performance by beating your self up or striving for better? High goal, low goal?

Perhaps that’s why you don’t set yourself and your team goals – or do you?

Setting Goals: is it worth it?

Author Credit:
Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access.


  1. Tony says

    Excellent article with many good points, I think the key area to focus on is the individual and what motivates them. Whilst our business targets should always be SMART I learned a long time agon to give individuals, individual targets that are relevant to their drive and the way in which they handle the pressure of targets. The easiest wat yo do this is get them to give you fridge magnet targets which could be anything from a meal out to a new car and then set revenue targets relevant to the item… I found that those that would feel demotivated by great big targets naturally chose items that would require lower targets but quicker attainment and those that really wanted to push themselves towards a bigger goal did so!! It has worked very well for me and as someone that starts out with smaller targets and then gradually increases them, it has also worked well for me personally when setting up Regenesis.

    • Jon Baker says

      Hi Tony, Thanks for taking your time to add to the article; I really appreciate it. So goals have to be set by an individual to be meaningful and if they’re not meaningful they’re not much use.

  2. says

    Being in the military we tend to set an overall goal with smaller objectives which add up to total success. Setting a goal without a plan on how to achieve it is a recipe for failure every time as it points to the “headless chicken” picture. By succeeding with the collective objectives, this keeps the team focused knowing they are on the right track both by time lines and organisational direction. High goal, lower goals and realistic goals should be given by analysing ability, needs/requirements of the task and worker’s personal circumstances and ultimately with the sole aim of achieving the mission.

  3. jonbaker says

    Thanks for your comment, sounds like the military use a definite hierarchy structure around their goals. Interesting to see you also look closely at high/low and realistic goals.

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