One of the hardest parts of effectively setting goals is knowing when to ease up a bit. Setting goals is a way to push yourself, to strive to work harder and be better. So when we fall a bit short of our goals, should we be upset, or do we still have cause to celebrate?
Obviously, this is a nuanced question, and there will be situations where falling short isn’t acceptable and situations where it is. The important thing to keep in mind when a goal isn’t quite reached is how hard you worked at that goal, and whether or not your effort was worthy of celebration.
For example, say your company had the goal of making $10 million in sales last year, $1 million more than the year before. By the end of business on December 31, your grand total was $9.95 million. Is that still worth celebrating? Absolutely! You made $.95 million more than the previous year, and a lot of people worked very hard to achieve those kinds of numbers. Yes, falling short isn’t ideal, and sometimes it isn’t even acceptable. The hallmark of a great executive is the ability to recognize when falling short of a goal is still something worth celebrating.
Your goals themselves should matter, but the effort put in to the goals is sometimes a better indicator of success than the actual benchmark of the goal. Say for example you set a goal of gaining five new customers by the end of the month, and you achieved it in the first day. If you then sat back for the rest of the month, satisfied with your minimal effort, that would devalue your accomplishment. If, on the other hand, you worked your hardest to bring in five clients but only managed to bring in four, you could still be proud that you gave it your all (and brought in four new clients!)
Goals without benchmarks won’t get you anywhere, but coming down on your employees (or yourself, for that matter) when a goal isn’t quite reached is ridiculous. Employees need more reasons to celebrate at work, not fewer. Celebrations are motivational and rejuvenating. Acknowledging good work, even when it’s not perfectly in line with your goal planning, can create a more positive work environment, and that will lead to better goal achievement in the future.
In this situation, as always, the big picture is what’s most important. Recognize successes when they come, look for ways to do better, and stay positive. Doing so will help both you and your company achieve more in the days and years ahead.