Proactively Slim Down Your 2021 Objectives

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Most management teams are gearing up to set 2021 objectives. That means now is the time for you to play Chief "Simplification" Officer. It doesn't matter if you just started at a new organization, you're a first-time manager, or you run a 100 person team. NOW is the time to fight for what you DON'T need to do next year.


Here's the problem. Too often, annual performance objectives (or goals) become a laundry list of 30+ bullet points or metrics. I've seen some that are 4 pages long in 10pt font. Who can actually do that many things well? It’s TOO much. And, we know only a few objectives are most important for growth and profitability. We need to slim down our objectives to those that truly matter in the year ahead and lobby hard to cut the rest. Not lower targets or make things easier, just clear out the unimportant things so we can focus.

Don't set yourself up to fail in 2021.

Here’s why we need to take action now:

If you blindly proceed with a long list of objectives, you'll likely miss on several items. Probably even some of the important ones. Then, at the end of next year, you’ll be left defending yourself. This won't help you get rewarded.

You might be tempted to wait until January to tweak your objectives. It may feel more natural to wait until your boss schedules time to review objectives with you. That’s too late. And it won't go well either. It will make you appear defensive. You will come across like you're worried you may not hit your goals.


Instead, play offense!


Go to your boss and proactively negotiate what should be eliminated ahead of time. Do it now. Before you get your 2021 goals. Start the conversation with something like: "I wanted to talk about focusing in 2021 on fewer, but harder, and more impactful goals that will help drive results with our clients."

Hopefully you work for a boss that is willing to a least have this conversation. When you discuss, lead with WHY the few harder and more important things will help advance your boss, your team, and the organization. It's your boss's job to stretch performance year-over-year. Be proactive about where you want to focus that stretching and get their buy-in. Say, “If we just did these three big things very well, we could likely pull ahead.” Once you and your boss agree on the few important things that matter, then outline what you want to EXCLUDE from your objectives. In the second part of the conversation, pivot and try something like: "In order to hit these important items out of the park, I'd like to propose eliminating some of the noise in my objectives. I'd like to bring as much focus as we can to what matters. Would you be open to eliminating or de-prioritizing a few of the smaller items that are being lumped in with everything else? This would help me focus and impact our clients in new and better ways." In short, (1) go to your boss about this BEFORE your objectives are cascaded down to you and (2) start with WHY the important things will make you, your boss, and the organization more successful. This should make the simplification of your objectives easier. Give it a shot. Worst case, your boss keeps your objectives as stated. At least they will know you're focused and running after the hard things for your team and customers. If nothing else, this will amplify their view of you as a focused leader. Hope this helps you win back some of your #168hours in 2021 to get more of the important things done.

“You can only do so many things great, and you should cast aside everything else.”

- Tim Cook, CEO Apple

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