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The Difference Between Objectives, Goals, and Tactics | Leadership – Coaching – Life

Set your vision first. Leadership, coaching, and life.

his is part of my Get Better Friday, all about being a better leader. Each piece is about me describing what I’ve been practicing to help me become a better leader and coach for my team, my career and my personal life.

This week:

  • To accomplish anything requires a vision of what success looks before you begin.
  • After, you have a mix of objectives, goals and tactics that will eventually be the work that will lead you to that vision.
  • The difference between objectives, goals and tactics. We often conflate the three together, mixing tactics with goals or interpreting an objective as a tactic.

When you work with a vision in mind, setting objectives that help push you to that vision will make setting goals and tactics easier. Everyday you need to ask yourself, “Is this getting me closer to my vision? To my life or career objectives?”

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All this week I’ve been talking about taking control of your personal brand and how important those things are and how you should give yourself permission to work on the things that you find interesting, to find a value, things that you want to move forward. It got me thinking a lot about your mindset around those things, and as a leader in marketing and as a leader of people and in your own personal brand, a leader of your life. For me, that’s really the three things that go together when you look at, “What is it that I’m trying to accomplish here?” There’s the objectives, the goals, and the tactics.

I want to talk about that today because of understanding the difference between the three. Understanding that a goal isn’t a tactic or an objective isn’t a goal. It’s important to understand how those three work together, instead of just conflating them all into a single goal. We get mixed up sometimes with our “objectives”, or what we’re trying to accomplish, because we see them as a tactic or we label a tactic as an objective.

Let’s run through this from the top down. The objectives that you have, they should be really short. Three to five things. These are at a high-level, long-term vision that you have for where you want to go. Whether your working on your personal brand, business, your personal life or all mixed together, you have these three or five very succinct, very clear to you, big grand objectives that you’re trying to accomplish. So, if you want to be the director of a Fortune 500 marketing department or you want to found your own agency, that is able to employ 10 people, there’s these big objectives that trying to get to.

An objective isn’t get 1,000 likes on an Instagram post, that’s more of a goal and then you look at what tactics you would deploy to get there. But, if you have these big grand ideas on where it is that you want to go over the long-term. It’s not easy! These things are really hard to figure out, takes some serious soul searching. Over the long-term, what is it that I’m working towards. What is it that every goal I set, what are they trying to get me closer to? Sometimes we’re really good at setting goals, but what is it that you’re trying to accomplish?

What is the bigger, overarching objective that you’re trying to reach, so then when you do set your goals, you have something to measure them against. If your objective is to be that director of a marketing department or be a founder, you know that the goals that you set that they’re getting closer to that objective. But they’re not tactics. They’re not be really popular on Facebook.

The goal that you would have if you wanted to be that director, would be to be skilled in certain things and you list off those skills that you need to get there. If its having worked in an agency, having done, insert this or insert that, whatever it is that you have these goals that you want to accomplish. Then the objectives that you have, which is where you leverage social media or a blog, writing a newsletter, or making videos. It could be going to a conference to get introduced to certain people or companies. Those are tactics that help you reach those goals. If you say my objective is to be a CMO at a Fortune 500 company, one of the goals is that I have to actually work at one those companies before you can actually get that job. Then the tactics you have are to talk to people who work in those departments on Facebook and Linkedin, communicate with them. You can go to conferences and listen to their talks or send an email to the current CMO.

But you can’t mix the three – objectives, goals, and tactics – interchangeably. An objective isn’t to meet all these people on Facebook, that’s a tactic. Accomplishing the tactics in the goal are designed to get you closer to that objective. These steps work together. When you get them mixed up, when you start labeling tactics as goals, you can be taken off onto a different route. When you start saying, “We’re going to increase our Facebook page engagement by 50%,” that is a step as part of a greater goal, which is to have deeper engagement across all social media channels, which is a step to the objective to be the leader in social engagement in our industry.

With the holiday coming up, I want to take a moment to think about – Are my goals pointing towards a greater objective that I’m trying to accomplish? Or do I just have a series of goals I’m trying to accomplish with no actual overarching strategies. I’d like you to think about that and then message me. Let me know how it fits. Let me know how those things all fit together and I’d love to hear what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. What are those objectives that you’re trying to do?

I’ll go first. A big one for me is – I would love to be a keynote speaker at a conference. That’s an objective that I have in my career. So, what does it take for me to be able to get there? To accomplish this objective I need to make sure my goals ultimately lead to this vision. Then, when I set tactics to these goals I know my tactics are always pointing me towards my objectives.

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