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Goal Setting as a Tool for Expanding Your Leadership Skills

By Laurie Lyte

January 27, 2020


As attorneys, most of us are familiar with setting goals — for ourselves, our clients, and the organizations where we work. Often, we use January 1 as a natural time to set resolutions for the rest of the year. Eager and excited for success, we jump right in sure that this year will be different. According to research, almost half of U.S. adults make New Year’s resolutions, but only a fraction of us will keep them.

To be a successful leader in the legal profession, we need to find a way to do better to reach success for ourselves and our clients. One of the most important skills leaders can develop is the ability to set and achieve goals. Effective goal setting is a tool for challenging, motivating, and focusing people to do their best. Exceling at this key leadership skill shows competence, encourages confidence, provides direction, promotes ownership, and helps track progress.

By ensuring that the goal-setting process is more than just a check-the-box process, you can not only increase the chance for success for the immediate goals set, but also learn from your mistakes to achieve future goals. The key lies in setting the right goals, defining success, and then planning for that success.

Setting the Right Goal

In choosing a goal, you should look for one that is important to you and for which you can truly see a benefit if that goal is achieved. A goal worth pursing should align with your values, your beliefs, and, ideally your passions. Finding your why behind a goal will help you prioritize and focus on achieving success.

Defining Success

Success should be challenging but achievable. You have a better chance in achieving hard yet realistic goals that encourage you to draw on your strengths and experience while also allowing yourself to grow and develop. Knowing what goal achievement looks like is crucial in measuring success. Knowing what success looks like provides a useful target in planning your path forward.

Planning for Success

With a clearly defined target in mind, designing an action plan gives you a framework for forward movement and, ultimately, success. An action plan should identify small incremental steps that can be easily tracked for progress. Identifying smaller steps provides an opportunity for reflection and recalibration, if needed, as you evaluate the success of each sequential step. The inability to meet a particular milestone is not failure. It is merely an opportunity to find a better approach in moving forward. You should expect and plan for expected obstacles so you can make mid-course corrections while staying on target to reach your ultimate goal. Designing how to walk the path to your target allows you to achieve your goal even if you find you need to take an alternate path.

Celebrating Success

With these techniques, you increase your chance of success in achieving your goal. Goal setting and achievement is an iterative process. Don’t forget to celebrate the little wins along your path to ultimate success.

Ready to learn more about effective goal setting techniques and how you can use them to expand your leadership potential? The D.C. Bar is looking for 24 attorneys to join the John Payton Leadership Academy class of 2020 where we will discuss in more detail. To apply, email [email protected] The application deadline is February 6.

For questions about the Leadership Academy or the application process, email Laurie Lyte at [email protected].