Agreeing the right goals for youOver a very pleasant bottle of Soave, I was delighted to hear, that my lunch guest, was agreeing the right goals for them this year. It was even better to hear that our past posts, on a system for goal setting & recommended goals, had helped him.

But chatting with other leaders across London, over the last couple of days, has reminded me how tricky this can be.

Most work within large corporations. Their initial enthusiasm & clarity, can get drowned in a sea of performance management processes.

So, I thought it might help to share more ‘down to earth‘ advice from our regular guest blogger, Tony Boobier. Having also spent much of his life working within large businesses, Tony can empathise.

In his most recent post, Tony shares his own experience with setting & agreeing the right goals for this year. What should you consider & what are the pitfalls waiting for you in the office?

Over to to be clear & candid, once more…

Agreeing the right goals: Alignment

For those of us, used to living in a ‘performance managed’ working environment, the task of setting annual goals (both for ourselves & our teams) is normally straightforward. Such goals should directly link to the strategy of our organisation.

By this, I mean that the overriding strategy needs to be adequately ‘drilled down’ to allocate specific objectives. Firstly divisional or departmental level, and ultimately to team, and then to goals for individuals. In other words, the annual goals that an individual agrees for a year need, in some way, to link to the overall strategy of the company.

There are echoes of the urban myth about President Kennedy talking to the guy mopping the hanger floor at Cape Canaveral, in 1961. When asked what he was doing, Kennedy was supposedly told, that he was doing his part to ‘put a man on the moon’. This apocryphal story is often used to illustrate leadership/vision and communication. But, perhaps, it can equally be used for goal setting and performance management.

Agreeing the right goals: Not too stretchy

Annual goals need be both realistic and achievable. It is not unusual, to build in an element of expected under-achievement, or even anticipated failure. We sometimes call this a ‘stretch target’, but even these need to be realistic. I get concerned at the increasing amount of stress in the workplace, often due to over-ambitious or unrealistic targets. I wonder, how much of the growing problem of work-related stress, is related to tougher performance management regimes? Is there a correlation, between levels of workforce stress and the amount of performance management in the work place? (One for the occupational psychologists, perhaps.)

Goals, should generally be agreed between employer and employee, rather than imposed. Doing this is a two-way exercise. It not only requires an employee to be prepared to resist unreasonable goals, which may be easier said than done. But, it also needs a manager to have an appreciation of what is sensible. Doesn’t the ability of an employee, to manage their boss’s expectations, seems to be an increasingly important critical success factor?

Agreeing the right goals: Measuring up

Whatever goals are agreed, with the employee, there needs to be an effective mechanism for measurement. By effective, I mean a mechanism that is objective and impartial. Clear metrics, rather than subjective, or open to differing interpretations. Effective measurement allows an employer to understand, whether the department or individual, are likely to meet their objectives. If they aren’t, then some timely remedies can be put in place, to provide corrective action.

It’s no different, in principle, to tracking that allows employers to know whether the strategy of a business is being delivered. If it isn’t being, CEOs will put in hand appropriate actions, to get the business back ‘on track’. Such monitoring & support should also be in place for the people delivering the vision.

Agreeing the right goals: How soft are yours?

But, beyond strict performance management, there are sometimes ‘softer goals’. These can be used, to stretch an individual’s personal capabilities, in the spirit of personal development.

In my particular case, an old boss of mine set me a personal target of becoming ‘digitally eminent’. In other words, to try to become a ‘digital influencer’. It was in recognition that the world of communication and marketing has changed. This continues, through the use of blogging, tweeting and exerting ‘digital influence’. Personal ‘digital eminence’ is one component, at an individual level, of the “New World of Marketing”. Buyers are more astute and informed, and often prefer to ‘pull’ information, rather than having a pitch ‘pushed’ to them.

For an analogue person like me, who was a digital sceptic, this was a goal which took me out of my comfort zone, and I think my boss knew that. By including this into my annual goal, measured by my number of blogs, tweets and followers, she eventually won me around to a different way of working. It was very much a case of ‘old dog’ & ‘new tricks’.

Agreeing the right goals: Getting personal

Like Paul, over the years, I’ve also come to realise that personal goals aren’t just something for the workplace. That they can be helpful, in directing the way that we live as well. This is especially important when you need to wind down from the stresses and strains of the job.

I seem woefully unable to keep my New Year’s Resolutions, as they usually involve not doing something. But, my personal ‘out of office’ goals, increasingly lean towards doing things that I like, or want, to do. Doesn’t linking personal goals to enjoyable tasks make them so much easier to achieve?

Agreeing the right goals: what are your tips?

Thanks Tony, for those reflections. it’s helpful to be reminded that there are other challenges to consider. Love it or loath it, most leaders work within a performance management environment. So, I hope Tony’s experience has helped prompted your own ideas for how to acheive agreeing the right goals for you & your team.

Do you have any other tips that have worked? How have you convinced your Boss or bent the rules to better manage & motivate your team? Please do share any of your insights, either in the comments box below or via our social media.

Now, as January has been completed, let’s focus on other topics that matter for Customer Insight leaders. More coming soon…