Despite leaders, managers and even team members understanding the value of goals, setting goals is a whole lot tougher than most would acknowledge.
You might have heard people talking about SMART goals. These are goals that are:
In theory this is straightforward. On the other hand when I speak with people and teams, one of the most common concerns they have is that they don’t have clarity about expectations.
When people lack clarity on expectations, they spend valuable time and energy trying to figure out what they should be doing rather than getting on with doing it. In these circumstances it is easy to get deflated, frustrated and just stop bothering and go through the motions.
So how can you set meaningful goals?
Top of my list of suggestions would be to make sure that you are clear about what you are trying to achieve. Perhaps those that you report to have not been as clear as they could be in setting expectations of you. If that is the case it is vital that you clarify before trying to set intentions or goals for your team.
Next it is often valuable to write out in some detail what will be different once the goals are achieved. One way of doing this is to write a review as if it is 6 or 12 months from now. What’s happening now as a result of having done things over the last 6 to 12 months?
Think about what will have contributed to achieving success. This might have been things that were done in terms of process. It could just as easily be about the behaviours that were adopted and the skills utilised.
Use this long list of ideas as the basis for identifying specific goals that are to be pursued in the coming period. A specific goal is a goal that is crystal clear and that is in no way ambiguous.
As you identify goals consider whether they can be measured. A word of caution on this. It is really easy to assume that certain things cannot be measured. What may be required is a little bit of creative thinking to find an appropriate measure.
Another challenge is to make sure that those on the team see the goals as being achievable. When setting goals you don’t want them to be so easy that achievement of them is too easy. On the other hand it is important that they are set at a level where they are seen as impossible to reach as people just give up.
The best goals are often those that provide a stretch. They can be achieved but will require an element of effort on the part of the team. They will probably at times feel challenging.
It is also vital in my view to write goals in results orientated or output orientated language. By doing this it is easy to see whether a goal is achieved or not.
In accounting, some results orientated goals might include:
Monthly accounts to be with budget managers by the 5th working day of each month.
All monies to be collected within 35 days of an invoice being issued.
50% of budget managers to have access to real time financial information within 6 months.
Sickness absence to be reduced by 1% within 12 months.
The final element of goal setting is to make sure that all your goals have a timescale attached to them. If they don’t there is a tendency for things to drift or never happen at all.