Why the Best Leaders Focus on Impact Goals

Why the Best Leaders Focus on Impact Goals

It’s the time of year to turn your attention to 2023 planning. Maybe your objective is to increase revenue, improve profitability, or reduce voluntary turnover. Whatever the goal is, it matters because you have taken the time and energy to define your team’s new performance goals in 2023.

Research suggests that writing down your goals gives you an 80% higher chance of achieving them. Clearly, goal-driven leaders outperform those that are not. So if you’re not a goal-setting kind of person, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach at the beginning of the year.  

However, as a leadership consultant and coach, the vast majority of leaders I work with don’t struggle with the idea of setting goals. Whether they learned “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible” from Tony Robbins, or they have seen the positive impact of goal-setting in their career, convincing them isn’t the problem. 

The issue arises when they only think of one kind of goal, performance goals.  

Two Kinds of Goals

A team, by definition, is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. Setting common goals can align team members’ efforts and help create a sense of purpose and motivation. Most leaders gravitate towards setting performance goals since they are measured in their company by performance metrics (E.g., revenue targets, profitability, customer satisfaction, or on-time delivery.)

While these are key metrics to measure and set correlating goals, leaders must consider another kind of goal: Impact Goals.  

An impact goal is a clear objective to positively affect others as the desired result. 

Impact goals relate to the team’s positive influence on people or their communities. Setting impact goals is one place where leaders differentiate themselves from managers. For most managers, measuring themselves or their team based on their positive impact on others isn’t something they have ever considered doing.

Managers measure themselves based on performance alone. Leaders measure themselves based on performance plus impact.

Leaders think and act differently. Not only do they set clear performance goals, but they also think about their impact on others.

What’s the Difference Between Performance vs. Impact Goals?

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How to Set Impact Goals

There are a million and one goal-setting techniques out there. Whether you use SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) or the goal-setting formula in Building the Best (clear objective + completion date + carrot), the key is that you have one. So take your formula and add a column titled “Impact.” Start by identifying the positive impact you want to have on others this year.

Take Chris, a manager of a mortgage team at a large bank, as an example. He has ten loan officers on his team and multiple other support roles. Knowing this year will be more challenging in the mortgage industry with higher rates and fewer refinances, he turned his attention to the deeper purpose behind their work. Instead of solely setting ambitious performance goals, he also set impact goals for his team.  

Impact Goal: Help 1000 people improve their families’ lives through home ownership.

By Chris setting impact goals, his team will work hard to make both the numbers required by the bank while maintaining their focus to help 1,000 people improve their lives through homeownership. 

Why Impact Goals Are Important

To provide context on why impact goals are essential, I would like to point your attention to marathon running. When most people run their first marathon, they go along pretty well for the first 10 to 20 miles. Then they hit a wall, both mentally and physically. The first thing they ask themselves at this wall is, “I don’t know If I can finish.” But then they ask themselves the ultimate question, “why does it matter if I finish?”

If a runner isn’t connected to the positive impact of finishing the race, they will give up or settle for what they accomplished (which would be mile 18, where most people give up.)  

Our impact on other people most inspires us.

Our impact on other people most inspires us. You work harder, more effectively, and productively when you know your efforts positively impact someone else.


Since it’s the end of the year and the start of a new year, I hope you set performance goals and impact goals. The best part is that you will make a more significant difference in other people’s lives and teach your team the value of achieving things beyond performance. 

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.