Strategy & LeadershipIn strategic goal-setting, the key is balance

In strategic goal-setting, the key is balance

Goal-setting is a stock feature of leadership strategy, but in 2021 organisations must recognise the importance of balance

Balance (both in business and in life) is so important. In fact, it feeds into just about everything we do, from managing our work-life balance, to injecting balance into our workplace initiatives. But I think it’s time to address another crucially important (and yet often neglected) form of this: balance in strategic goal-setting.

I was reminded of this in my personal life recently. When I was taking an online spin class, the instructor started out by talking about goals, and the importance of finding ones that work for you. I thought about this for a moment, and realised that, even within the context of day-to-day exercise, I actually have multiple goals across the two programmes I am enrolled in:

  • The first one is based on points: if you get 40 points in a week, you get perks such as a free drink at a local coffee shop or a free online movie
  • The other is based on achievement badges: you receive different badges for things such as working out x number of days a week or month, or riding x number of miles.

As you can see, by having these different goals and measures of success it creates a more balanced workout. If I only had the first goal, all I would care about is the number of workouts each week: the quantity, and not the quality. The same logic works in the reverse scenario.

This also applies to goal-setting. It’s just as important to build in balance so our people and our business get the right results. Those following approaches such as the balanced scorecard and SMART goals are already doing this to some degree, but in this article I’d like to take it to the next level and share some tips on balance in goal-setting, using my experience with exercise as an analogy.

1. Have short and long-term goals

One of the things I love about the online exercise company I use is their wide array of badges and challenges, ranging from a badge you receive for your first workout, to one for completing a certain number of miles for the entire year. By having both short and long-term goals, it gives me ongoing motivation as well as regular feelings of accomplishment.

Too often when it comes to goal-setting, we focus on the big picture; those goals that need to be done by the end of year. And while this is important, it’s also important to think about if there are also any specific short-term goals. If not, it can pay to build in short-term milestones so that employees feel that sense of accomplishment.

2. Have well-rounded goals

If all I ever did was spin classes, then I wouldn’t have a very balanced exercise regime. By adding yoga, strength and meditation classes, I’m working my entire body and mind, and thus meeting my overall health and exercise objectives.

This approach should also be taken into consideration when setting goals. The balanced scorecard approach introduces this thought process by focusing on several categories: financial, customer, internal process, and learning and growth. But that said, I’d also encourage you to explore if there are other measures or “classes” to be taken to drive and support the individual’s development and performance.

3. Have goals that bring you out of your comfort zone

If we’re ever going to develop and improve, we need to push ourselves. We need to “get out of our saddle”, as they say in spin class; it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone. Inevitably, this can’t happen all of the time, or we’d surely burn out and eventually give up, but it should happen from time-to-time to help us improve and grow.

These “out of the saddle” types of goals should be built into your overall goals, creating balance between those that are in your comfort zone and those that aren’t. Together they create a balanced and more meaningful “workout”.

4. Have goals that focus on your “posture”

Another key mandate in spin class is for us to focus on our posture. Quite simply, if you get it wrong, you can injure yourself, and thus your goals will be even harder to attain.

What's Hot

Learning to win the talent war: how digital marketing can develop its people

Whitepaper | Talent Development Learning to win the talent war: how digital marketing can develop its people

2w

Learning to win the talent war: how digital market...

This report documents the findings of a Fireside chat held by ClickZ in the first quarter of 2022. It provides expert insight on how companies can ret...

View resource
HRD Roundtable Report: Strategies For Re-Engaging The Hybrid Workforce

Roundtable Report HRD Roundtable Report: Strategies For Re-Engaging The Hybrid Workforce 5 May 2022

3w

HRD Roundtable Report: Strategies For Re-Engaging ...

We know hybrid working is here to stay, forcing many organisations to experiment with innovative and creative strategies from 4-day working weeks to u...

View event
HRD Roundtable Report: Making it ‘Worth It’ – What We Need to Reward, Engage and Retain

Roundtable Report HRD Roundtable Report: Making it ‘Worth It’ – What We Need to Reward, Engage and Retain 3 March 2022

3w

HRD Roundtable Report: Making it ‘Worth It’ – What...

We know the pandemic has caused many people to revaluate their careers and relationships with work and have been seeing the impact in global trends in...

View event
Dave Ulrich: How can business and HR leaders simplify complexity?

Leadership Development Dave Ulrich: How can business and HR leaders simplify complexity?

4m Dave Ulrich

Dave Ulrich: How can business and HR leaders simpl...

HR thought leader Dave Ulrich outlines ways leaders can deal with complexity in an increasingly busy world, including how to think critically and turn...

View article
HRD Roundtable Report: Using HR Data to Inform Organisational Decision Making

Roundtable Report HRD Roundtable Report: Using HR Data to Inform Organisational Decision Making 5 May 2022

3w

HRD Roundtable Report: Using HR Data to Inform Org...

Historically, HR hasn’t been as effective as it could be in sharing and communicating data with wider teams. It’s paramount that we remove the self-in...

View event
Digital transformation investment grows but critical skills gaps remain - Coursera report

Digital HR Digital transformation investment grows but critical skills gaps remain - Coursera report

4m Leah Belsky

Digital transformation investment grows but critic...

Covid-19 has accelerated the rate of digital learning on a global scale. Coursera's latest report provides an update on employee proficiency in a numb...

View article
Wellbeing in the hybrid workplace: how to successfully drive engagement

Employee Engagement Wellbeing in the hybrid workplace: how to successfully drive engagement

4m Alara Basul | Sponsored

Wellbeing in the hybrid workplace: how to successf...

Remote working has impacted the way we communicate as a workforce, but striking the right balance between creating an engaged workforce and a successf...

View article
How to create a company culture capable of empowering the modern workforce

Culture How to create a company culture capable of empowering the modern workforce

4m Alara Basul | Sponsored

How to create a company culture capable of empower...

While new working patterns that emerged from the pandemic have earned a permanent spot in the workplace, creating a purpose-driven culture based ...

View article
WATCH: Connection and collaboration in a hybrid workplace

Leadership Learnings WATCH: Connection and collaboration in a hybrid workplace

4m Amy Kirkham

WATCH: Connection and collaboration in a hybrid wo...

Alison Noon-Jones, VP of People & Culture at Leidos UK & Europe, shares how crucial employee engagement and participation is when shaping the people s...

View article
Turbulence ahead: Why it’s time to be bold in your leadership

Leadership Development Turbulence ahead: Why it’s time to be bold in your leadership

5m Terence Mauri

Turbulence ahead: Why it’s time to be bold in your...

HRD thought leader and Hack Future Lab founder Terence Mauri sets out why the biggest risk to leadership is not turbulence itself, but leading with ye...

View article

The same is true with goal-setting: it’s important to consider the ‘how’ and not just the ‘what’. Often, this is done by building in your values and behaviours. Much like posture, this ensures that you’re achieving the goal in the most safe and effective way, aligning with and driving your company’s mission and purpose.

5. Have a flexible approach to setting (and resetting) goals

Sometimes when I start a workout I may have one goal in mind, but depending on how I’m feeling and how I’m doing, I may need to adapt the goal. This isn’t giving up, it’s recognizing that sometimes things change, and that it’s better to have a new goal than to give up entirely.

Many companies did this in 2020, having their employees revisit their goals, which is exactly what needs to happen on an ongoing basis. Keep in mind that a key part of goals is to motivate, so if the current goal is not doing this, then take a step back and change it if required.

6. Find the right motivators

Finally, it’s important to understand and find the right motivators for each person when building goals. For example, I’m motivated by achieving the badges and challenges, whereas my husband is motivated by achieving a certain spot on the leaderboard.

I know it’s not always realistic to always build goals around motivators, but we should still try to find some room for this. For example, I’m motivated by being creative, so if I had a goal to build a new recognition programme, it would make sense to build in something about me working with the creative team to design the branding and communication material.


In 2021 performance management will be a critical tool to help your people and business succeed in this challenging world. For this reason, it’s important to be strategic in how you goals are setting, keeping in mind the six tips shared in this blog.

Subscribe to HRD Connect for daily updates on the future of work, including thought leadership, video interviews, the HRD Live Podcast and more.

Comments are closed.

What's Hot

Learning to win the talent war: how digital marketing can develop its people

Whitepaper | Talent Development Learning to win the talent war: how digital marketing can develop its people

2w

Learning to win the talent war: how digital market...

This report documents the findings of a Fireside chat held by ClickZ in the first quarter of 2022. It provides expert insight on how companies can ret...

View resource
HRD Roundtable Report: Strategies For Re-Engaging The Hybrid Workforce

Roundtable Report HRD Roundtable Report: Strategies For Re-Engaging The Hybrid Workforce 5 May 2022

3w

HRD Roundtable Report: Strategies For Re-Engaging ...

We know hybrid working is here to stay, forcing many organisations to experiment with innovative and creative strategies from 4-day working weeks to u...

View event
HRD Roundtable Report: Making it ‘Worth It’ – What We Need to Reward, Engage and Retain

Roundtable Report HRD Roundtable Report: Making it ‘Worth It’ – What We Need to Reward, Engage and Retain 3 March 2022

3w

HRD Roundtable Report: Making it ‘Worth It’ – What...

We know the pandemic has caused many people to revaluate their careers and relationships with work and have been seeing the impact in global trends in...

View event
Dave Ulrich: How can business and HR leaders simplify complexity?

Leadership Development Dave Ulrich: How can business and HR leaders simplify complexity?

4m Dave Ulrich

Dave Ulrich: How can business and HR leaders simpl...

HR thought leader Dave Ulrich outlines ways leaders can deal with complexity in an increasingly busy world, including how to think critically and turn...

View article
HRD Roundtable Report: Using HR Data to Inform Organisational Decision Making

Roundtable Report HRD Roundtable Report: Using HR Data to Inform Organisational Decision Making 5 May 2022

3w

HRD Roundtable Report: Using HR Data to Inform Org...

Historically, HR hasn’t been as effective as it could be in sharing and communicating data with wider teams. It’s paramount that we remove the self-in...

View event
Digital transformation investment grows but critical skills gaps remain - Coursera report

Digital HR Digital transformation investment grows but critical skills gaps remain - Coursera report

4m Leah Belsky

Digital transformation investment grows but critic...

Covid-19 has accelerated the rate of digital learning on a global scale. Coursera's latest report provides an update on employee proficiency in a numb...

View article
Wellbeing in the hybrid workplace: how to successfully drive engagement

Employee Engagement Wellbeing in the hybrid workplace: how to successfully drive engagement

4m Alara Basul | Sponsored

Wellbeing in the hybrid workplace: how to successf...

Remote working has impacted the way we communicate as a workforce, but striking the right balance between creating an engaged workforce and a successf...

View article
How to create a company culture capable of empowering the modern workforce

Culture How to create a company culture capable of empowering the modern workforce

4m Alara Basul | Sponsored

How to create a company culture capable of empower...

While new working patterns that emerged from the pandemic have earned a permanent spot in the workplace, creating a purpose-driven culture based ...

View article