Are you starting the new year with a new (or renewed) focus on goals? Good! Goals help direct energy and attention for both you and your team. Even better: Setting clear business goals is essential for driving the behaviors across your company that lead to success. You read that right: There’s a powerful, direct connection between goals and behavior. A good way to understand this important concept is to ask yourself two questions.

What behaviors are your business goals driving?

When you set a goal, you likely have an outcome in mind. Maybe you want to maintain or increase margins, which can provide an important metric to gauge growth. But before telling your team to make margins their top priority, ask yourself, what behaviors does that goal drive? 

For your sales team, obviously, it drives the behavior of selling products with the highest margin. However, if your main business goal actually is to have employees do what’s best for the customer, sometimes the best behavior to drive is selling a product with a lower margin. 

Here’s another example. Our clients set a goal of having no safety incidents. What behavior does this goal drive? Far too often, it drives the behavior of NOT reporting safety incidents—which is a dangerous outcome for everyone.

Bottom line: Whatever your business goal, taking the time to figure out what precise behaviors will get you there is a critical step for success. 

Are your goals “lagging” or “leading”?

Lagging goals are the norm in business, and they result from specific actions—increase sales, increase margin, increase production, reduce expenses. But it’s hard to track progress on lagging goals, and the outcome is only revealed at the end. It’s also hard to keep your team energized and motivated as they work toward a lagging goal. 

Leading goals focus on the steps taken along the way to a lagging goal. If you want to increase sales by growing your customer base (a lagging goal), a leading goal would be making more prospecting calls each month. If you want to increase sales by expanding product lines through existing customers (a lagging goal), the leading goal is having the sales team speak more frequently to those current customers. 

In terms of having no safety incidents at work (a lagging goal), a leading goal could be to increase the number of regular safety checks or to monitor how many safety concerns are reported.

Of course, lagging goals do serve a purpose, because they focus on the big picture of your business. (Remember that setting really big, broad goals may leave your team unsure of how to achieve them.) However, leading goals not only move your company forward, they also provide focus and direction for your team, and, ultimately, drive the kinds of behaviors that result in long-term, lasting business success.

The employee engagement factor

Rethinking goals in the context of behavior not only drives the actions you want and need to see in your business, it positively impacts employee engagement, too. Today’s employees want to feel like they’re part of something big, important, and meaningful. They want to actively contribute to a company’s success and feel valued and respected each and every day. 

When goals are linked to behavior, they become more tangible and trackable, which in turn leaves employees feeling motivated, energized, and involved. It’s a roadmap for growth, retention, and for building your best team ever.

Now that’s a goal we all want to reach. 


Spend a few minutes reflecting on your business goals for the year. Can you articulate what behaviors those goals drive? If you’re struggling to assess or pinpoint your goals, we can help. Email Erin to set up a time, and we’ll provide insights based on our experience with our clients. 

Download the guide: Achieve Your Business Goals Through Your Culture and People Strategies.

Download the guide: Achieve Your Business Goals Through Your Culture and People Strategies.

The success of your business depends on your culture. Therefore, it is critical to establish an intentional culture in your business and build strategies that support and reinforce it. The purpose of this eGuide is to provide a foundation for your business culture and ensure your people strategies and practices are aligned with it. Grab the guide - it’s free!

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