Getting Over Goal Setting Fatigue

I have a total love-hate relationship with setting goals. That has been seen in the execution and somewhat checkered track record I have had of achieving those goals.

One of the more frustrating times for me was with a major new client from a former employer. We had just signed a multi-year contract that was tied to an overall revenue goal. If the company and the client were able achieve the income objective before the contract expired, both benefited from terms that were placed in the agreement. I was tasked with creating the revenue estimates for each year of the contract. Those figures would be the basis of setting the sales goals for all the reps (me included) and any bonus potential for the current and next year.

As I dove into the details, I soon found out that I was handed a ticking time bomb. I learned specific and important lessons about goal setting. The targets must be realistic, everyone needs to be on board, there should be clarity on achievement, and an environment of full engagement.

Realistic Targets

When I began to compare the expected revenue to the historical data I was given, I found there was a huge gap. Revenue would need to grow 100% in the first year and then 10% each year after. While the company I worked for tended to perform much better than the competition, it was not double.

I delivered this analysis to my employer and many people began to realize the challenge. Therefore, I presented figures to the contract and the figures to what I felt were achievable (not easy, but possible).

The response I got back was “Thanks for the efforts, but it is what it is.” I was also told to present this to the client, who was also excited about the possibilities, even though there was no formal plan to make this happen (other than the fact that we were better than the competition).

Clarity on Achievement and Success

Since the original sales figures were here to stay, it made the next step even more difficult. There needed to be an understanding on all levels as to how to appreciate what constituted success. Because of the huge sales goals, we shifted many components of the goal to secondary (but not unimportant activities). Things like on-time delivery, in stock position, service rates, promotional program execution, and overall client satisfaction became highly emphasized.

The team pushed themselves on these metrics to take emphasis from an unachievable goal to ways that celebrated other successes. We were going to demonstrate our commitment to do everything possible to drive revenue.

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All a Board!

Now that some clarity was established, a lot of time was invested in a commitment by all the levels of the team to work towards a level of personal pride and obligation. The sales reps knew the sales goal was idealistic and out of reach. However, they embraced the idea of being a team that provided the best possible service to the client and their customers.

I learned to say thank you a lot, and to find ways to be positive, even if the sales numbers did not reflect their efforts and hard work. Bear in mind as we got going, the revenue was ahead of the previous year (significantly), it was just not moving enough to the created goal.

It’s Better to Succeed

You may have mixed feelings about my approach. To this day, I still do. However, setting high and lofty goals, for the sake of an emotion, a hope to win a client, is a recipe for failure and frustration. Reality, with a dose of healthy tension, can be the motivating factor driving to clarity of success and getting all participants to fully commit and be on board.

David Buck is the author of the book “The Time-Optimized Life, owner of Kairos Management Solutions, LLC, and founder of the Infinity Lifestyle Design program. As a certified professional retirement coach (CPRC), David works with financial services providers helping their clients create a post-career lifestyle strategy. To learn more, contact him at or visit Infinity Lifestyle Design.

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