How to Make Sure You’re Setting the Right Goals for 2023

We’re closing out another year and planning ahead for the next. As leaders who value our people and the success of our companies, our ultimate goal should be to grow our people so we can grow our business. Regardless of how you define it, growth is about knowing where you are, and where you’re going, having a plan for getting there, and learning from wrong turns.

You can reduce the severity of your growing pains by having a keen awareness of what’s happening around you and ensuring you’re setting the right goals to empower and prioritize growth. Here are three ways to use reflection as a tool for setting the right goals for you, your business, and your people.

1 – Understand Your Role as a Leader
It is a leader’s job to set the course: the vision, the goals, and the nonnegotiable rules of the business. You can make sure you’re setting the right goals by returning to the core mission, vision, and values of your company. Utilize team meetings to assess the current state of the company, determine the next set of goals, and resolve issues that prevent goals from being achieved. Use this feedback and align your goals with the core tenants of your business.

2 – Understand Your People
A public opinion research company, The Harris Poll, reported that lack of career growth is the second biggest reason people quit their jobs. Investing in the growth of your people is an investment in the growth of your company. By asking powerful questions, you can gain a clearer understanding of your people’s intrinsic motivators, their ultimate goals, as well as the smaller goals necessary to achieve them.

The idea of small goals to reach an ultimate goal is the foundation for building a career rock wall rather than a career ladder. On a career rock wall, not every move is lateral, and not every path is the same. Every team member’s rock wall will look slightly different because it’s a reflection of his or her individual goals for growth and development. This is the ideal time to reflect with your people and help them build their career rock wall for the year ahead. This empowers your people and reinforces that your organization offers a culture of growth and learning.

3 – Use An After Action Review (AAR)
An AAR is a simple and powerful tool when utilized with the right intention, frequency, and timing. Used in the military, AARs ask four pointed questions that occur as close as possible to the timing of an action or event, including the conclusion of a designated period of time. This is a fantastic framework for efficiently and effectively using reflection as a goal-setting tool. Here’s how it works:

  1. Set the Ground Rules
  • The focus of an AAR is on learning, not assigning blame. AARs are about what, why, and how, not who.
  • Use a neutral facilitator, preferably someone outside of the situation or someone trained in facilitating AARs to get the most unbiased information.
  • Hold the AAR as close as possible to an actual event or after a specific and purposeful time period, like the end of the year.
  1.  Ask Four Key Questions
  • What was supposed to happen? (The plan, the intended results, and/or the goal)
  • What really happened? (The results or outcome)
  • What caused this result? (What did we learn? Compare the planned outcome to the actual outcome.)
  • What can we do better next time? (What should we stop, start, or continue? Change, sustain, or modify for the future?)
  1. Plan for Follow-Up and Follow-Through
  • Remember, the organization is a learning laboratory.
  • Identify upcoming opportunities to test what you’ve learned.
  • Clarify who is responsible for the next trial and what they need to know in order to be successful.

It’s important to note that AARs aren’t only for mistakes but also an effective way to debrief a success. As a bonus, using them to debrief successes removes the stigma that AARs are a punishment when something goes wrong.

By using AARs as a reflection tool, allowing your people to reflect on their personal goals and understanding your role as a leader, you can effectively use this season to evaluate the past year and successfully plan for the next.


People First
The Harris Poll

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About Amy Lafko

As a Physical Therapist, Amy spent years in school learning best practices for patient care and how to put the patient first. Like so many technically skilled clinicians, she advanced to a leadership role. Spending 20+ years in operational leadership, she had an epiphany: Putting the customer first isn’t the path to success or fulfillment. Rather, the most successful organizations and practices put their people first – and exceptional customer care, profitability, and effectiveness naturally followed.