While visiting one of my favourite clients this week the conversation quickly turned to workplace goals and workplace resolutions given this was our first get-together of the new year. By the time we had heard from everyone at the lunch table we had pretty much heard all the commonly held views on the topic.

My client proudly told us how she deliberately asks each of her staff to provide a specific workplace resolution they will adopt for the year in view of making them a better leader. She then follows up with them on their commitment throughout the year in a fun way. She admitted to not holding them to it as she would an agreed upon performance standard but uses it as an entry point to discuss how to continuously strengthen leadership capability.

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We heard how resolutions have no place in the workplace as they are not measurable or specific enough and how one person was focused on annual goal-setting in their professional and personal life. They went on to make a compelling argument for SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound). Certainly the goal-oriented individuals I know set goals brilliantly then detach themselves from the results while using the overriding goal to stay very focused. My advice: find a goal-oriented person you know and buy them lunch to learn their secrets.

Another colleague proudly and impressively quoted Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better than Before and shared Rubin's distinction between resolutions and goals: "You achieve a goal. You keep a resolution."  We all mused about how behaviourally based resolutions give you a clean slate each and every day. Didn't do that daily walkabout on the shop floor to check in with your team which you had committed to doing yesterday? Not to worry, Today's a new day!

Yet another perspective shared at the table was the notion of workplace microresolutions — smaller, easily doable, action-oriented items that fall into the daily habit category as espoused by Wall Street technology leader Caroline Arnold in her book Small Move, Big Change — Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently. Arnold's perspective is all about setting aside the bodacious measurable objectives and focusing on the daily micro moves that will in turn lead to macro change over time. She even has an app for that.

We now understand a lot more about the science of willpower thanks to experts like Kelly McGonical Ph.D. who wrote The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. She skillfully explains how willpower is largely a biological function as opposed to a character trait or a virtue and that it can be deliberately enhanced through improved sleep, diet and exercise — interestingly all things that rely on willpower … maybe a bit of chicken-and-egg going on here but I digress.  I am simply not sure if workplace resolutions or goal-setting are as willpower-dependent as personal items like weight management and other healthy habits.

If your goal is to provide more real time feedback to your team, run better meetings or manage distractions to enhance your productivity, do whatever works for you. Either smart goal-setting or resolutions could be the perfect tool for your new year at work, your mission is to figure out which one works for you, go public about it and get on with it.