For anyone even remotely interested in performance, goal setting is essential.

Yes, individuals do it. Teams do it. But how effective actually are we when goal setting?

In my experience the results can be mixed and rather than setting absolute goals, I would argue that it may be more beneficial to set minimum targets.  Here’s just two examples to illustrate why…

The European sales team have a goal to achieve €1 million more in sales by the end of the year.  They set off excited and motivated to achieve this and indeed spend the next number of months doing an excellent job.  So good in fact, that after only six months, they are well ahead of schedule and have already achieved €750,000 more in sales.  So, what happens?  Well, they change their mindset and adjust their behaviour.  Rather than pushing on, they ‘take their foot off the pedal’ and over the second half of the year, their sales while continuing to increase does so at a far lesser rate than the first half of the year. By the time twelve months has elapsed they end up just making the goal of €1 million more in sales.  Its celebrated and they receive a small bonus.  Job done, but in reality, it could have been so much better.

Ben is a 32 year old, who hasn’t been particularly active since his teens.  He wants to get in shape and decides to set a goal of being able to jog 5kms in three months’ time. For sure, the first few weeks are tough but after two months, he’s lost weight and feeling more motivated than ever.  In fact, this week he has managed to run 4.5kms on two occasions without it exhausting him.  He continues to train as per schedule he set at the very beginning and sure enough at the three month mark, he runs his 5kms.  His family and friends congratulate him and while he is happy enough, deep down he knows that he was capable of far more.

In setting absolute goals such as the €1 million increase in sales over twelve months or to run 5kms in three months we adjust our thinking and behaviours accordingly.  Nothing wrong with this, unless you have underestimated what you are truly capable of!

What could the European sales team or Frank have actually achieved if they had of set minimum targets instead of absolute goals? How much more could they have done with a limitless mindset?

Had a minimum target of €1 million in sales in twelve months been set and €750,000 achieved after six months, this sales team would have pushed on buoyed by their success and could potentially have gotten to €1.5 million or more!

Similarly, if Frank had of set a minimum target of 5km in three months he would have quickly realised that he was capable of far more than he initially believed and might have ended up running twice that distance!

So, the next time that you are considering setting absolute goals consider instead setting minimum targets. You might really surprise yourself in terms of what you are truly capable of!

Joe McDonald, professional coach & trainer supports individuals, teams & organisations in taking their performance to the next level.  Experienced at an international level, he works with senior global directors, business and sports teams as well as SMEs & start ups.  Coaching sessions, workshops and online courses all available! Email and see for further information.