Setting goals for success

For many, the start of April is also the start of a new performance year and an opportunity to set goals and targets for the year ahead.  Too often, however, we don’t set sufficiently precise goals for ourselves or are unclear about what each person in the team needs to achieve in order to deliver the organisation’s goals.  It’s like organising a ‘bring & share’ lunch too loosely – you get ten puddings and a lot of cartons of juice, but there’s no main course.

Here’s a quick reminder of the main points to bear in mind when setting goals:

  1. Ensure ownership – goals and targets handed down from on high tend to get token engagement.  Much better to involve people in choosing at least some of their goals, or selecting elements of an organisational goal that they will pay most attention to.  Finding a link to something meaningful to the individual helps secure commitment.
  2. Start from strengths – people work best when they are using their strengths.  This doesn’t mean only giving people things to do that they’re already good at.  But when people feel positive and committed to an outcome, they are actually more likely to tackle the barriers and development needs they face in order to deliver it.
  3. Be SMART – you know the drill: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.  But how many objectives really meet these criteria?  Yes, there are some elements that rightly do not fit the mould.  But they should be the exception rather than the rule.
  4. Be focussed – there really isn’t any point in having more than five or six objectives.  It’s not possible to keep sufficient focus on more.  Can you conflate two or three areas into something more strategic?  What are the handful of outcomes that will make the biggest difference?
  5. Set consistent expectations – people need to be clear about the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’.  Individuals who meet their goals at the expense of relationships will do much more harm than good.  Particularly for teams, be clear about expected standards and behaviours, discussing and agreeing them collectively if you can.
  6. Be flexible – over the course of the year goalposts change; indeed, sometimes it becomes a whole new game!  Rigidly holding people to outdated targets serves no purpose – you are after people who can think on their feet, find continuous improvements and be alive to opportunities.  Make sure their overall goals will support this.

If you can get your own goals and those of your team right, you’ll find that performance discussions over the rest of the year go much more smoothly.  A few hours invested now will pay off huge dividends in saved time and reduced stress during the rest of the year, as well as making it much more likely that you and your team will achieve great things.  Like a well-planned lunch, you’ll have a delicious, healthy main meal, as well as pudding and drinks.

Katie Driver

Katie Driver is a certified business coach and experienced trainer and facilitator. Clients consistently remark that her calm approach and clear insight helps to deepen their own thinking and improve the choices they make.