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Goal setting at work

5 Secrets Of Solid Goal Setting At Work You Can’t Miss

“I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.”

Venus Williams
That’s the inspirational, single-minded focus that seven-time Grand Slam-winning American Tennis player Venus Williams brings to the table. And rightly so, she is regarded as one of the greatest of all time in her sport. Her mindset points to a great idea here: focus on what matters, and the rest will take care of itself.

Setting goals and achieving them is not just a matter of sports; there’s plenty to win outside the arena in workplaces and many other situations. In this blog post, we will unravel the secrets of goal setting at work for managers and leaders. We will also look at the five essential ingredients of successful goal-setting – taking it in as more than just a vanity exercise and making a real impact. So, let’s get started.

Goal setting refers to the process of defining outcomes that you want to achieve within a set timeframe. For instance, you might aim to read 12 books this year. Goals are often used to motivate and induce action, even for things that we do not like to do often (think of those New Year’s resolutions languishing in the back).

Goal setting at work benefits personal growth and development and achieving strategic objectives with teams. It helps people measure progress, overcome procrastination, and visualize the dreams on which teams are founded. When goal-setting becomes a habit, it can help individuals stay motivated, focused, and optimistic in their outlooks.

Why should managers care about goal setting at work?

To many managers, setting goals for many people and yourself seems tedious. But think of everything that you can achieve by mastering this skill. Effective goal setting in the workplace enables you to; 

  • Push your team forward: Alignment of your team’s actions effectively with the broader strategy is easier. This will also keep the individual’s needs in sync with the team’s targets, ensuring that they are accountable and motivated. Your team feels connected to the organization too.
  • Easily track performance: Goals make performance reviews easier. When your team members have clear goals, you can accurately and efficiently measure performance instead of banging your head against a table when reviews need to be filled.¬†
  • Build good work habits: Setting goals at work is net positive as it enhances team performance. Consider marketing team A, which has been instructed to “reach out to people,” vs. team B, which has a goal of “reaching out to 10 people every day.” Who is likelier to understand what to do and rightly schedule their work?
  • Reach strategic objectives: Goal setting in the workplace puts strategies into action. Big plans and visions are great, but it’s the smaller goals that make them move. Honing solid goal-setting habits enables managers to define short-term outcomes expected from their teams that contribute to more significant objectives.
Let’s be honest: each of us has goals for us. There are some on your diary right now. But how often are we able to keep up with them? Pretty frequently, we miss it. And we don’t always a Duolingo bird threatening us to keep going. So, how can we achieve goals without Duolingo holding a knife at us? Here are a few strategies of goal setting at work that can help us out:

Align with the company framework 

As a manager, you are responsible for setting goals for yourself and your team. So before jumping on to goal setting at work, have a good look at the context and scope you are working with. In most instances, your organization would provide you with a broader framework to operate. It could include: 

  • The goal-setting frameworks for the entire organization: Some companies love OKRs, while others swear by MBOs, and yet others figure something out of their own. Having a system across the organization ensures easy understanding and compatibility, even in cross-functional collaborations. Hence, try to play in this frame so that your team does not find multiple systems hard to navigate.
  • The long-term goals: Your company would share the long-term strategies and objectives of which your team is a part. From this insight, take away what your team can do and how they can do it best‚ÄĒthat will help you define goals for your team while keeping in touch with the rest.
Aligning team goals with the company framework ensures that your work is impactful and recognized clearly by senior management. Performance is also easier to track and appraise.

Make goals at work challenging

If I were to ask you to run a hundred meters right now, you wouldn’t think much of it. But instead, if we decide to participate in a half-marathon three months later, there’s much more to do and think about. That goal requires you to plan, practice, and get moving before D-day. And this is what you need your workplace goals to look like. A small challenge goes a long way in keeping us moving.

Locke’s study of goal setting sums up this: We like our goals to be clear and challenging, which positively impacts task performance at work. Hence, the next time you set goals for your team, be more like “improve efficiency on process X by 25%. I know it’ll be hard, but I am here to help out,” and less like “let’s improve our performance, buddy.”

In the same set of studies, we have another interesting feature of goals that work: they are as clear as water. A good goal tells you precisely what needs to be done and when, a bad one leaves you confused. Think back, have you ever received vague feedback like, “Hi, you need to improve your communication skills.” Even if you try, you won’t get their point. Similarly, your team would want goals that clarify where to act. This approach also falls in line with the SMART goals framework.

Are you looking for more examples of goal-setting? Hop on: 5+ Examples & Tips Of Goal Setting For Managers At Work

Make goals at work achievable, too

Excitement is a great motivator, but failure hits hard, too. Thus, when setting goals in the workplace, ensure that you do not set your team up for failure. A lot of overzealous managers can do this unintentionally. And while we all love a challenge, pushing ourselves too much has detrimental consequences that are not worth it.

Your goals should read: “Increase quarterly sales revenue by 8% compared to the same period last year. We have a couple of new people joining, and our strategies are improved now.” And here’s a red flag: “Increase quarterly sales revenue by 50% compared to the same period last year without implementing any new sales strategies or initiatives.”

Unrealistic goals are not only bad organizers of work; they often push employees onto the edge of burnout. If it goes on for too long, your turnover rates will rise. Plus, managers tend to micromanage and become overburdened when these wrong goals are not met. In the best interest of yourself and your team, it’s okay not to be a superhero.

Read more here: Unrealistic Goals vs. Stretch Goals: The Fine Line

Regularly update and track goals at work

Think back to the goals you met; they’d have one thing in common: you checked your progress often, whether by ticking the box daily in your diary or taking tests regularly while learning languages. Regular check-ins are essential to completing goals. Goal setting at work is most effective when the manager consistently supports the team and helps when they get stuck. Conversely, regularly tracking goals also enables you to ensure that deadlines are not being missed.

Similarly, as your team progresses, the goals must also move ahead. Keep finetuning the objectives as your context continues to develop. Ask your team for suggestions, too. Technological changes or new challenges from the business environment can be critical reasons to consider this. Outdated goals would push you in the wrong direction and make your work double. Thus, keep watching and keep updating.

Goal-setting activities can help you out in this, check a few here: 6 Fun goal-setting activities to help you achieve your dreams

Align with individual growth and development plans

Last up, keep your team members in mind while setting goals at work. Goal setting in the workplace can be significantly out of sync for many people; the tasks assigned may not meet their personal development and growth plans. As a result, they could be disappointed and demotivated to perform.

Thus, set goals with your team, not for your team. Bringing them on board will show that their opinions matter and their ideas are put into action right before their eyes. It solicits greater engagement and action toward the objectives. Moreover, by ensuring the alignment between team and individual goals, you also demonstrate an interest in your team’s needs and wants, which can cause them to place loyalty and trust in your efforts, making you a great manager. Goal setting questions are a great way to do this.

Deriving goals from the long-term vision and matching them to the individual team member’s ideas and needs is an excellent approach to¬†cultivating a “line of sight.”¬†Yale coined this term, which hints toward an approach to goal setting in the workplace that hinges on active contribution from all levels of the organization, a great understanding of the impact of efforts, and ultimately a sense of belongingness‚ÄĒeveryone moving ahead together.

Goal setting in the workplace is an excellent step toward envisioning success. Nonetheless, it can sometimes falter. As discussed above, alignment of goals in the workplace is essential in this equation. That’s the pivot in keeping everything moving. And that’s where mistakes happen often. For instance, the senior management imposes goals instead of developing goals collaboratively with the team members concerned. Overworked and demotivated teams are the result.

In some cases, the goals might not make sense to the individuals working on them. It happens without sufficient communication. Goal setting at work cannot be done in siloes. Instead, it calls for sharing and working together. Show the vision, demonstrate how every effort contributes, and encourage your team to own initiatives.

In some cases, especially with new managers, goal setting at work can be troublesome because the teams are not ready to take them up. It could happen when you are in a crisis and set up stretch goals that need your team to push more than usual. The key to such situations lies in solid negotiation skills and setting the right expectations with your team.

At times, you would need to go ahead and convince why a goal needs to be on the sheet, so be ready to be your persuasive best. By the way, this is about more than just your team members; you might find yourself doing this with your seniors, who often need more time to be ready to see things your way and stick to conventions regarding plans and goals.

Lastly, beware of unrealistic goals creeping up on your goal. Goal setting in the workplace is an exercise that is best done in reality and with a thorough goal-setting process. Thinking of what should ideally happen will take you far away from what can really happen. Unrealistic goals do not account for missing resources or team members’ limits; they push things too hard till they fail. Avoid falling into this trap.

No worries, we can find some ways out. Here are some tips for goal setting at work that every manager should know: 

Key skills to work on 

Goal setting is not just about deciding timelines and putting the resources in. That definition would be sheer injustice to the skill it takes. Goal setting at work includes looking for challenges and removing them as they pop up, keeping track of the smaller tasks, and providing feedback and guidance to keep your team going. To ace this set of goal-setting abilities as a manager, focus on these skills; 

  • Prioritization: Focus on what matters, first and foremost. Keep the urgent and essential things at the top while the rest can find homes later. Prioritization helps you sort the mess out when your to-do list is longer than your mobile screen.¬†
  • Interpersonal communication: Big task lists are scary. Talk to your team. Keep them informed, motivated, and, above all – reassured about your presence in the middle of a mess. They might hate you for creating it, but be present. Interpersonal skills also come in handy while confronting people amidst your collaboration efforts.¬†
  • Problem-solving: You have the problem, so the need for this skill is relatively self-explanatory. Hone problem-solving skills to enable a view of the bigger picture. It’ll help you get the context right and choose the best action.

How do we avoid repeating goal-setting mistakes?

  • Learn from the mistakes: Reflect and take time to understand what went wrong and why. Don’t do that again. Self-reflection, brainstorming sessions with the team afterward, and feedback from the concerned people can help understand the rights and wrongs.¬†
  • Self-assessments and feedback: Assess your skills using Risely’s free goal-setting assessment for managers and leaders here. It will also help you solicit feedback from your team. With detailed insights into the sub-skills and actions, you can plan a development journey for your goal-setting skills as a manager.¬†
  • Take up training: Leadership development options focusing on goal-setting skills are a great resource. You can check out workshops, seminars, and personalized solutions like coaching for goal setting and mentorship who work closely with your team. Plus, Risely’s AI coach, Merlin, can help you here. Check out Merlin’s advice on your challenges in a free conversation on goal setting skills here.
Goal setting defines achievable outcomes within a timeframe, which is crucial for personal growth, team alignment, and organizational success. You can benefit by aligning team goals with company strategies, making goals challenging yet achievable, and regularly tracking progress. Mistakes like imposing goals without collaboration or setting unrealistic expectations can hinder success. You can improve by prioritizing interpersonal communication, problem-solving, and self-reflection. Learning from mistakes, seeking feedback, and investing in training can enhance goal-setting skills, ensuring alignment with organizational objectives and fostering team growth and success.

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