6 Characteristics of Great Goals

by | Nov 2, 2017 | Leadership

In a past blog post, I wrote about the important task that a leader has in answering the question of what for their team or organization.

What matters? What should I do? What is your Vision?

A great way to answer that question is through the creation of goals.

In my experience, I’ve found that effective goals are specific, challenging, provide line-of-sight, have a time-frame, are measurable, and are followed up on.

1. Are Specific

I’ve found that vague goals produce vague results. Goals should be specific, actionable and should communicate exactly how we accomplish a bigger vision.

For example, if Service Express’ goal is to increase revenue by 15% this year, what can each employee do to affect that?

Here are how the goals may look for employees in different departments:

Sales– Increase the number of qualified first meetings to 15 this month.
Marketing– Increase the number of unique visitors to our website to 7,000 this month.
Customer Service– Increase our Net Promoter score to 92% this month.
Service– Increase our customer retention rate to 98% this month.

2. Challenge

“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.” –Tony Robbins

Goals are vehicles of change, not tools of the complacent. By design, goals stretch us- they allow us to take the steering wheel from fate and control the direction of our days.

Leaders develop others, and goals are a great instrument to help people do more and be more. When someone accomplishes a goal, they should be better for it.

If we aim too low then goals become trivial. If we aim too high, they become discouraging.

3. Provide Line of Sight

Goals help to determine what gets done on a daily basis. They help to prioritize and to manage time effectively. In my experience the best goals provide a daily line of sight to success. Calendars, task lists and meeting agenda’s should point our teams toward the successful completion of goals.

4. Have a time-frame

I’ve found that goals are most effective when they’re time-specific and when they create a sense of urgency. Leaders who set a specific time frame for the completion of goals allow their teams to build an incremental plan for success. By communicating what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, they empower their A-Players to do what they do best, to figure out the how.

5. Are Measurable

What gets measured gets done.

We cannot succeed if we haven’t defined what success looks like or when success occurs. We cannot effectively adjust our methodology if we can’t say whether or not the plan is working.

Developing metrics to measure success allows for objective performance measurement. The metrics that a leader creates not only helps them to define what success looks like, it also allows them to conduct objective autopsies when things don’t go as planned.

6. Are Followed Up On

Finally, I’ve found that follow up is critical. Follow-up not only communicates that a leader “buys in” to the goals they define, but also that they see them as opportunities. If goals go unmet, it’s an opportunity to dig deeper and discuss why; they can become great teachable moments. If goals are accomplished, it’s an opportunity to celebrate and discuss what went right. Finally, they provide a more informed way for us to define what our next set of goals will look like.


Goals are a great way for leaders to ensure that their teams are in alignment and that the right things are being done. When done right, they inspire teams to do more and to become better consistently!


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About Me

I am the President & CEO of Service Express, a National Best & Brightest Company to Work For. Service Express has averaged double digit growth every year since 2001.

We attribute our success to a unique corporate culture that we call The Service Express Way. I am a member of the Young President Organization and sit on the Board of the Spectrum Health Foundation.