Activity goals lead to results

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jul 21

For a long time, I fell into the “results” trap in setting goals. The goal we are working towards, of course, is a result. But the result is not the same as the goal. I like to think of the result as the objective of our work and the goals are the activities that we do to hit the objective.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you have a personal health goal of losing 10-pounds. If you were using the SMART goal setting approach, you would create your goal to say something like this:

“Weigh 150 pounds by December 1st, 2008.”

How does that measure up to our SMART goal:

  • Specific? Check.
  • Measurable? Check.
  • Attainable. Check.
  • Relevant? Check.
  • Time-bound? Check.

A great goal, right?

The problem with this goal is that it sets you up to “wish” the goal into place. The goal in and of itself doesn’t require you to DO anything. Simply weigh 145 pounds by December 1st, 2008.

The trap comes from believing we have set up a great goal and then not following through with the activities necessary to lose the ten pounds. By building activity goals, we have a much better chance of achieving our objective of losing ten pounds.

Building out activities as goals

So, a better set of goals to reach our ten pound weight objective:

  • Exercise 30-minutes on the treadmill six days a week.
  • Consume no more than 2,178 calories pa day (this for 150 pound person so you would be eating the right number of calories to sustain a 150 pound person…editor).

Each of these goals also reflects the SMART approach to goal setting. But being activities to do every day, you have a better chance of hitting your objective of losing the weight.

Even if your manager pushes you to the “results” goal, make sure you build the activity goals necessary to make the objective. Then you won’t “wish upon a goal” and fail to make the objective everyone wants.

Want to leave some goals in the comments and we’ll see if they are activity or results goals?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

  • Debra says:

    BAM! You hit the nail on the head with this one, Scot!

    Okay, my goal, the one that’s been gnawing at me for almost one year now, is to update my website. I’ve been searching new templates and DOING pittly stuff – I now realize that I need to set deadlines for these as well. Your post was just what I needed to get some real action achieved – thanks so much!

  • Deanna McNeil says:

    I know I have not been doing the work I need to do in order to move to the next level in my career. Fear? Lazy? No goals!

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  • Anonymous says:

    Great post! I had a manager that always would say, “activity leads to results”, and as much has that annoyed me (maybe because he was saying it), he was right.

    • One has to select the right activities, but yes, activity leads to results. Even when you get goals that are results oriented at the end (Decrease expenses by 1%), you still have to break down the end results into actions that will lead to the result. Every goal — and every number — has a story. You have to make sure your results have a story to tell or you won’t make the goal.

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