Setting Career Goals for a New year

Setting career goals for a new year

Happy New Year !

This is my favorite week of the year. Call me a nerd, but I love setting goals for the new year. There’s something so positive about the first week in January. I haven’t done anything wrong yet. There’s no blemishes on my score card. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be an amazing year. I’m excited to improve myself and make a positive impact on the people around me.

When I set personal goals I typically look at 5 categories. And within each category I’ll pick a few goals I’m going to shoot for. Here are the goal categories I use:


These are goals related to my career. Usually they’re focused on my development as a leader and as a master of my professional craft.


There are the goals related to fulfilling my long-term dreams. Normally they are focused on my financial future and my entrepreneurial endeavors.


These are goals related to the relationships and partnerships I value most. I typically have goals for my family life, my friendships and my business partnerships.


These are goals related to my mental health. My life can be stressful at times, and it’s important for me to prioritize my state of mind.


These are goals related to my physical health. Fitness is an extremely important part of my life and it’s important for me to make investments in my physical well being.

I’m not going to share all my goals with you this week, but I will share my professional ones. I hope in sharing how I think about professional goals, you might be able to take something from them to apply to your own goal setting this year.This year I’m focusing on three professional goals. But before I launch into them, I think it’s important to share my methodology with you. I should warn that the goal setting purists may get offended by my approach. Unlike typical business goals, which are meant to be results oriented, I purposefully do not focus on outcomes in my annual goal setting. For me, the process is much more important than the outcome. I want to create new behaviors and habits that I think will lead me to positive outcomes, and then let the results take care of themselves.

The challenge with outcome-based goals, in my experience, is that they tend to be quite binary. You either lost 15 pounds or you didn’t.  So what if you worked out every day and ate well but only lost 13 pounds? Is that a failure? What was actually the most important thing, the outcome or the new lifestyle you adopted? Outcome-based goals can lead you to discount the amazing value that can come from adopting the right behaviors even if you fall a bit short of the desired outcome. To be honest, the older I get the less I care about outcomes and the more I care about habits. This applies to my professional life too.

Back to my professional goals. I have three categories for these: Learning goals, Leadership goals, and Coaching goals. For my career, this makes sense. First and foremost, I am a manager, so these categories are a good fit for me. If you’re an individual contributor or a hybrid contributor-manager, you might select slightly different categories.

Within each category I typically have one goal with a few behavioral commitments tied to it. This way I have something to shoot for AND a set of behaviors to ensure I stay on the right path.

Here are my professional goals for 2018:

Learning Goal:

Operational Mastery

Someday I would like to be a CEO. I have wanted that for a while now and most of my learning goals tend to be centered on the areas I think I’m missing to be successful at that level. When I look at the best CEOs I’ve ever worked for, they all had an amazing command over the financial and operational engineering of a company. I don’t have this yet. Most of my career has been spent working in the Sales, Marketing and Product areas of companies so I’ve got a gap to fill on the operational side if I want to reach my full potential as a leader. This year, my learning plan is going to focus primarily on the pursuit of mastery in financial and operational disciplines. I’m excited to dive in and improve in these areas.

My Commitments:

  1. Read one book per quarter on corporate finance and operations.
  2. Take one online course per quarter on corporate finance and operations.
  3. Find a coach or mentor and commit to one session per month to develop my skills.
  4. Find one opportunity or project this year at my company to expand my operational experience.

Leadership Goal:

Quiet Leadership

As I wrote about in a recent blog, I am very focused on speaking less and listening more. I have noticed, in myself and in leaders around me, a bad habit of leading by directing vs. leading by inspiring collaboration. I want to change this in myself.

I think you can get by for a while as a leader just by giving clear and precise direction and holding people accountable to execution. But at a certain point, you reach a limit. The best leaders in the world facilitate greatness in others. That is leadership at scale.

This year, I’m going to focus on leading by inspiring others to collaborate and to be creative. To do that, I’m going to talk way less. I’m going to wait longer before sharing my opinions. I’m going to find new ways to make people feel more comfortable to be creative. This hasn’t always been my strong suit. When I’m rushed or impatient I have a tendency of dominate and direct. I’ll just jump to my answer instead of facilitating real collaboration. I’m excited to develop in this way.


  1. Start all project discussions and brainstorming by polling the room for ideas before sharing my own.
  2. Start all new project meetings with a basic statement of the objective but no direction on tactics.
  3. Make my team more comfortable by lowering the consequences of having a “bad idea”.
  4. Host a coaching session with leaders on my team to create similar behaviors in them.

Coaching Goal:

Unleash the Introverts

I am an introvert. I always have been. There are unique challenges to being an introverted leader but it’s not impossible by any means. Many great leaders are introverts. Over the years I have developed a mindset and a collection of tools that help me succeed as a leader even though I struggle in some areas extroverts find easy. When I look around me, I see a lot of introverts who struggle with the same things I have had to overcome. My goal in 2018 is to share those methods and models with this group to help inspire a new generation of leaders.


  1. Write one blog per quarter focused on leadership tools for introverts.
  2. Hold one coaching session per quarter with the future introvert leaders I see on my team.
  3. Create specific opportunities for the introverts around me to push their boundaries.


I love goal setting. I always feel great right after I do it. I realize the goals as I’ve presented them today aren’t as measurable as you might normally see, but it’s the behavioral change I’m after. I’m excited to pursue these new habits and committments with all of my energy and enthusiasm this year. I hope you’ve found my perspective to be valuable and I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on goal setting and what you’re shooting for in 2018.

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