Mapping a route to success

People who understand the value, importance and art of setting goals are more efficient and effective than people who don’t.


successful businesswoman

We can’t see what the future looks like, but we can imagine it. When we do spend time imagining it, we consider what the present looks like and what the various events or situations are that might impact or influence things going forward. These events or situations may be positive or negative and play a significant role in how we envision the future playing out.

Goal setting hinges on this ability to consider various future outcomes. We can anticipate potential challenges and look forward to exciting things that we expect the future to hold. When we set goals, we are acknowledging our ability and power to influence the future. I use the word “power” deliberately in this situation because setting goals truly is a powerful and effective way to influence the future.

People who understand the value, importance and art of setting goals are more efficient and effective than people who don’t. When you write a goal down and list the steps that you are going to take to achieve that goal, you are ultimately creating a road map to success and actively influencing future outcomes.

It doesn’t matter if it is a personal goal or a career goal — the simple act of identifying what you want to see in the future starts influencing your thoughts about the future. Writing it down and listing key things that will help you achieve it makes it a goal.

This is true for organizations, too. Organizations that set goals experience greater direction, greater focus and increased productivity. This has a fantastic ripple effect on staff. When staff know what they are working toward and realize how they can play a role in this process, you get a magical thing called buy-in. When you get buy-in, you start to get a range of benefits from your staff, such as an improved attitude toward work, better motivation and improved staff retention.

So where does one start? The most important first step is to define your goal. Write it down, and be specific about what you want to achieve. Then start working backward. Envision the point in time where you see yourself or your organization having reached the goal. Put a time on it. Visualize yourself celebrating that you have reached the goal and determine when that will be. Is it next week or next year? Write it down, because the time needs to be defined.

Then, work backward. List what you need to do in order to achieve the goal. These milestones will become goals in their own right and will feel like victories along the way when you reach them.

You may need to revisit the timeline as you start working out how you’re going to get everything done in time to reach your goal. That’s OK. It is crucial to remain realistic about the timeline. Be bold, be ambitious, but also be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to cram what should be a five-year process into two years.

Next, determine how you will measure your success. How will you know that you are making ground and that you are on track to reaching your end goal? What will signal that you’ve reached the end goal itself? Knowing how you will determine that a goal has been achieved goes hand in hand with the first step, which was to define your goals, and with the second step, which was to mark out the “mini goals” along the way.

For golf courses, I encourage course superintendents and club managers to work together to identify and set an overarching goal for the club that is realistic within the constraints of time, resources and budget. This should include what the goal is for the golf course and identify clearly what the superintendent should be aiming for and working toward in the future. When new ideas or suggestions for the course get tabled, they should be tested against the goal: “Will doing ‘XYZ’ contribute toward us achieving our goal? Or will it have a limiting effect on the resources that we need in order to reach our goal?”

This testing process helps greatly with decision making for the course. An added benefit of having a clear goal and using it to test all suggestions for the course is that it gives the superintendent the backing that he/she may need to challenge committee suggestions and member suggestions. If something isn’t going to contribute to reaching the goal, it probably isn’t something you should be doing.

Writing clear goals truly is an empowering process that can serve as a road map to success. We can’t see what the future looks like, but we can imagine it — and shape it.

Kelly Sauerman is the solutions developer for the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute who will be leading two seminars at the upcoming GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando: Goal Setting — Writing a Route to Success, and How to Rise from Teammate to Leader.