The closer we get to the end of the year, the more serious we get with goal setting. Turns out, people are more likely to pursue their goals after a birthday or the first of the month. So, there's no better way to start fresh, than on the 1st of January.
Nonetheless, goal setting shouldn't be left to chance. Although there is nothing more basic in management than setting goals, it's also one part that is often overlooked and dealt without systematic approach. As said by Elbert Hubbard: "Many people fail, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal."
Goal setting is nothing more or less than a conscious process of establishing levels of performance to reach desirable outcome. Harvard Business Study gives an effective overview of the positive correlation between employee engagement and clearly communicated and understandable business goals.
The same research states that the most commonly cited success characteristic is a focus on achieving goals. Actually, it's proven by hundreds of studies, that specific and challenging goals can powerfully drive behavior and boost performance.
Goal setting might become more difficult when your whole business is built upon unexpected situations. Like it's the case with Belfor, the worldwide leader in disaster recovery and property restoration. As a property restoration company, they handle losses after storm, water or fire damage, which makes their planning process a bit more hectic.
Nevertheless, by setting up team goals from monthly reviews and keeping them under everyone's nose, they have noticed people rising up to meet these objectives. Rather than being something that is talked about and forgotten, proper planning and public team goals have made people aim for these.
No matter which industry you are in or which goal setting tactic you use, there are certain questions that help you reflect on the effectiveness of your goals.
Questions you should be asking when setting goals
Here are 7 questions you need to ask to make sure objectives will be turned into results:
1. When is the right time for goal setting?
A survey of small business owners found that more than 80% don’t track their business goals, not surprisingly 77% of leaders did not achieve their company vision either.
Goal setting is an uncomfortable process. It demands you to think about the ideal future, ditch the comfort-zone and practice a great deal of self-discipline. Against all common sense, there's never a great time to step out of your comfort zone. So there's truly never a great time to set goals. Therefore, stop waiting and start taking action today.
2. Have I written down the team goals?
Writing down your goals gives you an 80% higher chance of achieving them.
Before it’s not written down, it’s just a wish. Ever heard about the Harvard Written Goals Study? It states that 3% of Harvard MBA graduates make ten times as much as the other 97% combined due to their clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them.
Well, this study, which is cited by thousands of articles, turns out to be a myth. Nevertheless, an actual study that was conducted by the Dominican University indeed found a positive effect of written goals on performance.
And that makes a lot of sense. You see, on average, you have about 35 thoughts a minute. If your goals are only in your mind, they are invariably jumbled up, vague and uncertain in many ways. By writing goals down, you:
- inherently commit to them;
- are forced to clarify what you want from your team;
- provoke you and your team to make the next big step towards the goal;
- will enable your team to see the progress.
3. Can everyone view the objectives?
Clearly communicated and understandable objectives have a great impact on employee engagement.
Written goals are great, but written public goals are even better. By making goals public, keeping them in front of everyone, you'll soon experience people actually planning accordingly. That's the beauty of OKRs – Objectives and Key Results. It will help you set and communicate personal, team and company objectives and keep them public in front of everyone, so teams move in one direction and know what others are focusing on.
4. Are my goals SMART?
Studies clearly indicate that setting specific, challenging, and obtainable goals enhance performance.
In your goal setting process, make sure to use SMART goals. These objectives are:
- Specific – well-defined and focused;
- Measurable – contain a number;
- Attainable – ambitious but reachable;
- Relevant – in compliance with the overall market trends;
- Time-bound – with a concrete deadline.
5. Are all objectives aligned?
Employees who set goals that are based on their personal strengths, are 7 times more likely to be engaged in their work.
In order to turn objectives into results, make sure personal, team and organizational objectives are all aligned. Once again, the OKR is a great method that helps you track the objectives and make sure they are all aligned.
6. Am I out of my comfort zone?
Specific, difficult goals are positively correlated to improved performance.
Challenging goals lead to higher performance, as opposed to easy goals. Yet, when the goal is beyond reachable, it acts as a de-motivator. Make sure your goals fall in between these extremes. Keep your team goals challenging but attainable, this will separate average employees from your best and brightest. All this while, remember the SMART goal setting principles.
7. What is the next step?
63% of study respondents say that not knowing which work was the priority was the biggest waste of their time.
Goals are useless unless you chunk them into daily, weekly and monthly tasks required to accomplish them. Focus your plans on what's important, try the Eisenhower Matrix to realize your priorities. To bring everyone on the team to the same page use the PPP process. It will help each team-member report about key achievements, plans and challenges.
After you have set brilliant team goals, encourage your team-members to set corresponding personal objectives. Here's a slideshow you're welcome to choose in order to help them with the process: