Creating an environment in which employees perform at a high level requires leaders to engage staff so that they are motivated to excel1. It is imperative that business leaders are able to do this in order to reduce turnover and maintain a healthy workforce. There are numerous ways this can be done, although one method which is especially important and can have a positive impact on engagement and performance is goal setting.
Why is goal setting an important process?
A goal is a pre-set objective that can be observed, measured and achieved within a specified timeframe. Whilst this may sound simple, setting goals isn’t so straightforward.
Creating SMARTER goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound, Ethical and Recorded) is often where most people begin. Whilst this framework has demonstrated credibility as a goal setting tool for leaders, some of the behaviours which characterise goals are sometimes overlooked. Keeping SMARTER goals in mind, we believe that business leaders and managers should focus on three key areas when setting goals for/with employees:
1. Analyse previous successes and failures
Prior to setting objectives and targets for 2016, it is important for managers to spend time with their employees; analysing their performances in terms of what has and hasn’t gone well previously. This will often naturally stimulate conversations that centre on a pathway for developing new targets for the future.
2. Personal Narrative
This refers to an individual’s sense of personal meaning and how this can be used when devising goals. It is imperative that employees embody their goals, so that their interest, emotion and appetite are all enticed. This focusses upon the intrinsic motivation of individuals, giving them ownership over their goal; which in turn should increase the desire to achieve the task at hand2.
3. Keep it Simple
Having an excessive amount of goals, or too broad a goal, is a common mistake individuals can make.2 The desire to improve can actually be counteractive, with many goals becoming unrealistic targets. Considering this, monitoring, tracking, and providing feedback to employees can be difficult over time, which is somewhat ironic considering how key a moderator feedback is in the process of achieving our goals. This demonstrates how essential it is that managers look to guide their employees in an appropriate direction; which will enable detailed feedback to be provided and drive further commitment to achieving the goal.
Goal setting can be a complicated process for leaders to implement effectively. It is crucial that the goal set is achievable, challenging and where possible, has a personal narrative attached. This will ensure that intrinsic motivation is at an optimal level when attempting to achieve one’s goal, making success that little more realistic.
1. Health Care Registration, 2010. Effective Goal Setting. Newsletter for Health Care Registration Professionals, 19 (12), 5-6.
2. Shalley, E, C., Oldham, R, G. and Porac, F, J., 1987. Effects of Goal Difficulty, Goal-Setting Method and Expected External Evaluation on Intrinsic Motivation. Academy of Management Journal, 30 (3), 555-563.