Merge's Blog

Setting goals? To build confidence, go smaller and sooner

Setting goals is an important first-step towards achieving objectives and when done appropriately and regularly, it can be a source of great motivation for teams and individuals.  I often hear leaders refer to “stretch targets” – goals that require and effort or “stretch” to realize.  But the key to goal-setting that results in success really lies in attaining a balance – a balance between “too much” and “not enough”.  If the goals are too big or too distant or not reflective of the business reality, they will actually undermine confidence and eventually become de-motivators.  On the other hand, if the goals are too easy, or simply the status quo, they will not serve to encourage higher performance or productivity.

So what’s the solution?  In my experience, it’s to jointly agree to several smaller goals that focus on the near-term rather than a single enormous goal that is envisioned for the future.  Break the big objective down into smaller steps and push the envelope for each one sequentially.  The logic?  A huge goal can be overwhelming.  And if that’s not bad enough, once progress on this single goal starts to slip, so does the confidence of your staff.  But … several smaller goals creates opportunity for small wins, and when small wins occur repeatedly, with each small step moving to closer to the ultimate objective, individual employee confidence and overall team spirit will go up.

So you know what I think.  But what’s your philosophy around goal-setting?  Big audacious goals, or smaller cautious ones?  Or something in-between?  Do tell.


  • I agree Merge. Our trust in ourselves is increased when we work at and achieve our goals. Self trust is the first pillar of trust. We have to trust ourselves first before we can trust others. Love your writing!

  • Thanks Lea, I know that you’ve conducted an immense amount of research into how trust is created. Your comment got me thinking … if we help our employees increase their self-trust and self-confidence (by in this case setting smaller and short-term goals), then we probably also increase their trust in us as leaders. This is what I call a double bonus!


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