This Goal-Setting Tool Really Works

We all have reasons to set goals, both personal and professional, but we don’t always have a clear path to achieving those goals.

Setting goals

The Goal Grid is a user-friendly tool that can help get you there. Taking an example of a professional goal-setting situation, let’s say you’ve just had your performance review and you and your manager have talked about goals for the next 3, 6, 9 months or a year. Given that, you write up the list, which might look something like this:

  • Improve team performance
  • Delegate more to my directs, especially to X and Y

And maybe you’ve got a goal or two of your own that you want to map out in addition to what’s expected of you in your role:

  • Take a more strategic approach to my work
  • Raise my profile in the organization and become more influential

These goals are solid, but what steps do you need to take to actually achieve them? Very often we set a one-sentence goal and then wonder, somewhere down the line, why we didn’t achieve what we were going for.

The Goal Grid

The Goal Grid is a quick and practical goal-setting process that makes it easy to stay on track. It starts with your goal statement, then outlines the future state, current state, actions to close the gap, barriers to taking those actions, and your immediate next steps.

Goal grid for goal-setting

Goal Statement: Your Goal Statement is most useful to you when it’s focused on the end result rather than on an activity. Taking the last example goal from above (“Raise my profile in the organization and become more influential”), focus on that end result, get a little more specific, and rephrase it. For example: I’m considered a person of influence by important leaders in my organization.

Future State: Describe what the Future State of this desired outcome looks like. Write the behaviors and conditions in the present tense as though you’re already there. This puts your brain in gear for actually achieving this future state.


  1. My ideas, opinions, and suggestions are listened to with interested and they are acted on.
  2. My pitches are clear and compelling. I focus on how my proposal solves or prevents a problem, improves a difficult situation, and/or adds value.
  3. I confidently handle debate when my ideas are questioned.

Current State: You want to reach the future state, but it looks like your current situation may put you far away from achieving it. But you can’t get to where you want to go until you clearly know where you are. Describe the Current State relative to each of the items you’ve listed in your Future State.


  1. I have relevant ideas, useful opinions, and good suggestions but I don’t always get them on the table before someone else does. Many of my best ideas come after the meeting, not during. When that happens, I often don’t take action to get a second meeting to express them.
  2. The times when my pitches are clear and compelling are when I have taken the time to plan. I generally don’t give myself enough lead time to guarantee that I’m fully prepped.
  3. When under pressure and questioning from others, I often get defensive and then revert to arguing my way out of it.

Actions to Close the Gap: Now that you see where the gaps exist, you have the data you need to figure out the best Actions to Close the Gap for each of the future states.


  1. Don’t hesitate. Get my ideas on the table during a meeting, not after. And if an idea comes up later, make sure I get it heard by the right people.
  2. Set aside one hour a day or two before each important influence situation to make sure I’ve got my ducks linked up.
  3. Do my homework. Find out in advance about what others’ objections are or could be and then be ready to discuss. When that information isn’t available, put myself in the others’ shoes and take a guess at potential objections. Then put a plan in place for what I’d say should they come up.

Barriers to Closing the Gap: What stops us from taking those actions? If we identify the barriers, we have a good chance of consciously eliminating them. Because when they’re just below the surface and we don’t recognize them, we have no real knowledge of what could be stopping us.


  1. I don’t like to interrupt people.
  2. I may not have an hour at my disposal to plan.
  3. Even if I’ve done the homework, I still can’t guarantee that I won’t become defensive.

Next Steps: Now that you know the actions to close the gap and the roadblocks that could get in the way, you have a running start at changing the current state — the habitual behaviors that have been in place — to the future that you envision. When possible, include a “by when” date for your next steps.


  1. As soon as there’s even a nanosecond of silence, seize the opportunity to contribute.
  2. Even if I have only 15 minutes, plan, no matter what.
  3. Identify the triggers that could cause me to lose control and appear uncomfortable or defensive — identify these triggers by end of next week.

The Goal Grid can be used with any goal, personal or professional. When you have both your future desired outcome and your current situation clearly stated, you can surface what might be in your way and then generate achievable next steps to get you to your goal.

Question: What do you think — does the Goal Grid make it easier to stay on track? Do you have any of your own tips to share? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Photo credit: Productions

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