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ATD Blog

ICE 2012 Sales Enablement Zone Blog Series 3-6

By and

Tue Mar 06 2012


Freedom From Business as Usual (Part 2)

Setting Goals for REAL Success

Yesterday I taught a course on the fundamentals of self-leadership, and one of the topics we always discuss is goal setting. Tried and true as the SMART framework is when it comes to setting goals, I was looking for something unexpected to put in front of my participants to help them see goal setting  differently – as if for the first time. That is where the idea for REAL goals was born.


The R in REAL goals stands for Realistic, but Challenging.

The idea is to see all of your goals as stretch goals. Not because you should constantly feel like the bar is set too high. Rather, if you set stretch goals you will soon realize that you are always capable of accomplishing more than you originally though you could. Surprising yourself in this way helps you learn and appreciate your strengths that take you to the next level.

The E in REAL goals stands for Energizing.

It never fails that this is the one that stirs classes and clients the most. The truth is that most of us think setting goals should feel a little bit like going to the dentist: we know we should do it, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it. No more! Your goals, both personal and professional, have the potential to energize you! This zing of energy that you feel when you think about accomplishing your goal is exactly what will keep the momentum going day after day. If you currently have goals in front of you that aren’t matching the “energizing” criteria, look for your intrinsic driver. Ask yourself over and over again: “Why do I want to accomplish this goal?” until you finally get to an answer that resonates internally instead of externally.

The A in REAL goals stands for Aligned with the Organization.


Let’s face it: if you are going to put in the time and energy to reach a stretch goal, recognition and/or acknowledgement when you achieve it would be nice. The best way to ensure that your goal will be supported is to align your goal with the needs of your organization. How? (1) Look around the organization and identify something that needs improvement to drive the business. (2) Discuss your goal with your manager or a mentor within the organization whom you trust.  (3) Look to the mission, vision and core leadership competencies within your organization.

The L in REAL goals stands for Linked to Results.

This criterion supports both the individual and the organization. As an individual, it’s important to know when you are done – when you have achieved the goal. To make this possible, your goal must be linked to an outcome. For your organization, this criterion will make it easier for your manager, mentor, colleagues and perhaps even the President and CEO to have the data necessary to share your amazing accomplishments in meetings, board rooms and closed-door conversations everywhere.

At the end of the class yesterday, one of my participants stopped me to say: “I’ve never even considered the idea of a goal being energizing. That’s completely new for me.” That was a cue that my goal of helping the participants see goal setting with fresh eyes had been a success.

If you are ready to see your development goals in a new light, apply the REAL framework for some real success.


If you’d like more, please consider attending ASTD 2013

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