Managing Performance : Setting Goals
As a leader, it is your job to have a vision for the work your unit or organization does and how that work is to be accomplished. But how can you make sure that your vision becomes a reality? A large task, such as creating a new ad campaign or starting a new season for a sports club, can seem daunting. To ensure success, you will need to break that large task down into attainable goals Breaking a job down into its simplest form makes it more probable that the job will be done and done right. For the manager whose team is working on that new ad campaign, that may mean setting a goal-oriented timeline that specifies that certain parts of the job be done in increments. For example, the outline of the advertising concept is due in week one, the copy in week two, the artwork in week three, and so on. Or, for the coach of the sports team at the beginning of a new season, it may mean tasking a particular player to improve his swing or kick by a small amount in that season. Improving even one player’s performance by a small increment can have a huge benefit for the team as a whole.
Plain English : Goals are specific metrics you set for your group to accomplish. Goals benefit an organization in two ways by giving you a way to measure performance and by creating a realistic, simpler way to accomplish large tasks.
To ensure that your group is working to fulfill your vision, you must make sure that you have clearly communicated your expectations to them. A team cannot function without knowing your idea of the group’s immediate and long-range goals and, if you work in a corporate environment, the goals and vision of the larger organization.
This is where a mission statement may come in handy. A mission statement is a small document that outlines the overarching business philosophy and ultimate goal of your organization. If your company has a mission statement, make sure that you have a copy of it handy. You could post it in a common area that your group uses.
America Online’s mission statement is “To build a global medium as central to people’s lives as the telephone or television … and even more valuable.” This statement is posted throughout the company’s offices on plaques. Although this is clearly not a goal that could be achieved in a year, employees are aware of what they are all working toward and can think about their work in relation to that mission statement.
If your company does not have a mission statement, or you are leading a smaller group or organization, try crafting your own mission statement.
The Measure of Success
Any industry has measures of success. If you’re a sports team, you have a record of wins and losses. If you are a media company, you have your ratings in relation to other media companies. If you are a sales team, you have sales figures. Don’t keep the measures of success a secret from your staff. Hold regular meetings to let them know how successful their work is and what they’ll need to do to improve their standings.
Tip : Give your staff the benefit of knowing your organizational goals through a mission statement or by sharing your unit’s metrics with them. Remember, they can’t do what you want until they know what you expect.
As stated previously, to function as a unit your staff must be aware of overall organizational goals. However, your people must also have individual goals.
As stated in the definition at the beginning of this section, goals give you a way to measure an individual’s performance compared to other staff members and against his or her own past performance.
There are some rules for goal-setting that you should know before having the first meetings with your staff:
- Have a job description.
The most important aspect to goal-setting for individuals is to make sure they have a job description. It sounds simple, but many organizations don’t think giving employees clear and detailed job descriptions is a priority; instead, they expect employees to figure it out on their own. This can result in lost time while an individual does the figuring out, as well as more lost time and resources when the individual arrives at the wrong conclusion.
- Have realistic expectations.
Make sure the goals you set for an individual are realistic. For example, Ken asked Sandra to write a 200-page report by the end of the week. This was an unrealistic goal.
- Be specific when assigning goals.
The method of measurement must be clear. For example, Charles asked Amy and Chris to each create 10 Web pages for the company site. Amy finished her portion of the pages in two weeks, whereas Charles finished only half of his work by then. Charles should not be penalized because a time limit was not set. To take this one step further, Amy may have seen time as the most important factor in the assignment, whereas Charles may have considered research and well-rounded pages to be the top priority. You must be as specific as possible when assigning goals.
- Distinguish between formal and informal goals.
There are several types of goals for individuals. It must be made clear whether a goal is formal or not and whether a specific reward is tied to the accomplishment of that goal. For example, are the goals written on paper and tied to a yearly review, or are the goals more abstract? An abstract goal might be asking an employee to casually learn more about a given aspect of the business.
Although goals can go a long way toward keeping your staff on track, mistakes will be made. Practice tolerance. Employees can often learn just as well from their failures and mistakes as they can from their successes.
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