Unit 14: Setting Goals

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Setting and achieving goals is an important part of any leadership journey. Even in failure, the desire to strive for something difficult to attain is a noble act in and of itself. Setting and attaining goals is where your leadership journey takes on a life of its own. Now is the time when you are no longer training to be a leader but are expected to act like a leader. This will be the hardest and most perilous part of our journey. Everything up to this point will prove to be pointless if you are unable or unwilling to take the next step…TO ACTUALLY LEAD!

Think about all of the goals you have set in the past that you have failed to achieve and you may get a sense of what lies ahead. Remember your last New Year’s resolution? Remember the goal you set on the first day of school last year to procrastinate less and work harder? Remember all of the things you said you were going to do during your summer vacation? I think you get the idea that most people don’t even remember much less to achieve their goals. Goals without action are called wishes. There is nothing wrong with wishing for something, hoping that it will magically appear, as long as everyone you understand it is a wish. The problem occurs when others are counting on you to work towards not only your personal but organizational goals and you treat those goals as wishes.

Believe it or not, most people fail to achieve their goals, not because they are unwilling participants but because they were doomed to fail from the start. Most people fail because of one of the following reasons:

1. They are unwilling to do the work required for success.

2. They set faulty goals to begin with.

3. They have no specific plan of action to achieve their goals.

LEADERSHIP TIP: Announce your goals to your entire section. This will not only provide a support network for success but will also make you more accountable for achieving them.

For further clarification and understanding, let’s take a quick look at each of the three pitfalls. Review these materials before and after you have set your goals to ensure that you have not set yourself up for failure.

1. Unwillingness to do the work. Let’s be blunt. There is nothing anyone can do about this but YOU. You and you alone have to commit to doing what is required to get the job done. There will be others who will help and support you, but this does not mean they will do the work for you. This is where there the vision ends and accountability begins. You need not walk alone. Your student leader colleagues will walk with you, but no one will carry you.

2. Faulty goal-setting. Most goals are doomed from the start as they are unattainable or unreasonable, to begin with. Failure is oftentimes inevitable when the goal lacks specificity, is too large, or not within the goal setter’s sphere of control. For instance:

Goal: We want to be the best group in the state.

While this goal sounds great, the leap it would take to achieve that in one year is often unrealistic, and unless your state has a way of measuring who is the “best group,” then there is no way of knowing whether or not you have achieved it. Finally, there are many elements needed to achieve this goal which is not under your sphere of control, including staff hiring, show design, music selection, enrollment, budget, scheduling, etc… When in doubt, it is best to set goals in very small increments and under very tight time parameters.

A better way of stating the same goal might be:

Goal: To raise our music score, visual score, and auxiliary score by 10% over our scores last year at the same event.

This is a more concrete and realistic way of not only approaching the goal but measuring whether or not you have achieved it.

3. No specific plan of action. All goals require a plan of action and all action plans require three things: specificity, timetables, and ways to measure success. Without these three elements, you are more likely than not to wallow in ambiguity and frustration. For instance:

Goal: We want our section to be the best section of our group.

While being a noble goal, this goal lacks all three elements required for success. Based on this example, we lack a timetable, specifics on what the best section is, and how we will know if we have achieved it. A better way of phrasing this goal might be:

We want to be the first section in our group camp to correctly memorize the entire opener and pass our playing test with a 90% proficiency or higher. To achieve this, we will meet every day during our lunch break for fifteen minutes until everyone passes the playing test. If, after the three days, not everyone has passed the test, we will assign each person who has not passed it a “playing buddy” who will give them private lessons on the music until they pass.

This is just one example of making your goals and their implementation more concrete and attainable. Once you have established goals that are realistic and an action plan to back it up, the only thing standing between you and success is YOU (see Failure Reason #1).

Like everything else in life, the more you practice something, the better you will be at it. With that in mind, use the space below to list three goals for your section or group. When you are done, share your goals with someone else from the leadership team (or the entire team) and get their feedback on how you might best structure the process for success. When picking your goals it might be wise to consider one musical goal, one behavioral goal, and one team-building goal. This will give you a broad base of success from which to build upon for future goal-setting activities.

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