Setting goals and planning for failure with POWER

Goal setting is one of my favourite topic at the moment. There’s so much in there. And wouldn’t you know, research found that they way we set goals might make the difference between keeping on failing or turning around to success. Setting goals in the right way builds resilience
To build this resistance in your team, you can do two very important things:

Teach team members to set goals for themselves

Now most of the companies I know love SMART goals. But there’s another framework suggested by researchers, which I like even better. Especially when it comes to setting more complex, challenging and learning goals.
The framework acronym is POWER and it’s best your practice it yourself first:

P – positive outcome.

You know the difference: “I want stop eating so much bad food.” will have your brain looking for what? Bad food. Instead of framing the goal as something to get away from, use a positive language. That means where you want to get to. So when you say “I want to find more healthy eating alternatives.”, guess what your brain starts looking for?
I’d like to add to this step, that you should also look for why this goal is important and worthwhile pursuing. Ask yourself: What is it good for? What will it enable us to do? How will this be beneficial both for you personally and the company? 

O – own role.

Here’s where you take responsibility. Full responsibility.  You can look at any setback or obstacle from different angles: It’s completely my fault. Everything’s their fault. Anything in between. The more responsibility you take, the more control you have and the bigger the feeling of self-efficacy. Use this step to expect all the things that might stop you – and what you will do to overcome them.

W – what specifically (do I have, want and need).

Take what you came up with in “P – positive outcomes” and make it even more specific. What do you want to achieve? Be really precise in terms of when, how much, for how long, what exactly will you do, how will the world be different… “Exercise regularly” isn’t even half as good as “For at least three months I will go for a 30 minute run three times per week.”
Also take stock of where you are now. Never went running in your life? Gives you a good idea on all the things you need to get in place to achieve your goal. That’s the next thing. What other resource do you need? (Running gear.) What do you need to learn to achieve your goal? (Running technique and training plan to build strength and endurance.) Who’s support do you need? (A good kick in the … from your good friend when you come up with lame excuses.)

E – evidence for progress.

Oh so important. The single most important thing to keep you motivated once you’re on the journey. Find ways to visualise to yourself what you have accomplished so far and how much is still left to do.
Celebrate the small victories you made on the way.

R – relationship.

That’s a bit of a reality check. What will others say when you share their goal with them? How will they be impacted when you achieved it? Especially in large companies it often happens that departmental goals or KPIs work against each other. So it is worthwhile to check for any unwanted negative side effects. Ask yourself: If everything could go as well as it possibly could, what might be negative consequences for others?
It may be tempting to rush over these or even just do the exercise in your head. But if you want to dramatically increase your chance of success, especially if the goal is a bit more ambitious, spend some time on it. I’d say you’re not done unless you thought about it for an hour and written one full page.