The phrase “stretch goal” is so common in corporate circles today that it sometimes sounds like a cliche. But to the ambitious manager or executive, stretch goals are useful. You didn’t rise to the top in your field by setting small, reasonable goals. You dream big, you reach high and you often succeed. Your ambition may make you feel alone in your company or in your field, but there are people like you who will stop at nothing to maximize their career potential. Like you, this group of people specializes in continually setting and achieving stretch goals for their own development.
Defining the “Stretch Goal”
The definition of a stretch goal is a goal that requires you to reach beyond your comfort and knowledge zone. Each time you set a stretch goal, you build on every other stretch goal you’ve made, tapping into your potential. Also, your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Managers who continually achieve their stretch goals understand that goal-setting requires careful planning in addition to execution. You need to know more than what you want to achieve. You also need to know who, when, why and how.
Why You Should Set Stretch Goals
You should set stretch goals because they are the only type of goals that can serve two purposes at once. Unlike other goals, stretch goals incorporate two facets of career development: performance goals and development goals. Performance goals relate to the work you are presently doing, while development goals relate to the work you want to do in the future. If you only set performance goals, you may soon excel at your current position; however, you will not be prepared to transcend it. If you solely set development goals, you risk neglecting your current role in favor of future growth. You need a stretch goal to incorporate both the current moment and your future vision. It is also critical to understand that stretch goals will feel slightly to moderately uncomfortable. This is because stretch goals require you to gamble on your most valuable asset: yourself.
Elements of a Stretch Goal
There is always more to learn about properly setting stretch goals. The best stretch goals have both short-term and long-term components. They also challenge you to take a team-based approach to achieving your individual management development goals. Stretch goals bring together past education and career experiences with present-day knowledge and future plans. Most importantly, they incorporate the need for your team, including peers and supervisors, to stretch with you (or let you go) if the goal is achieved. Trying to achieve a stretch goal in the presence of ongoing resistance can be its own indicator of the path you must take for your goal’s success.
How to Achieve a Stretch Goal
Because stretch goals push you past your current knowledge level, they always require you to educate yourself in various ways. You can achieve your stretch goals with the help of a professional mentor or through colleagues on your team who will hold you accountable, help you brainstorm and solve problems you may encounter. Sometimes it is necessary to return to school for advanced training and education if you want to achieve a more demanding stretch goal. The key facet for achieving a stretch goal is to be willing to do whatever it takes to see it through. Adopting a success-oriented mindset from when you set your stretch goal will drive you to find innovative ways to overcome challenges and realize your full potential as a leader and a manager.
About the Author: Carly Devereaux started out answering phones for the company she now runs. She owes her success to her willingness to challenge herself in areas where she has natural skill and areas where she needs more development.