Understand Performance to Better Implement Goal Setting in your Organization

November 28, 2013 - 7 minute read - Posted by

This week, I have focused my blog posts on performance management. I thought it would be interesting to share what are the issues companies are facing today and how revamping their performance management system can help them be successful. For this blog post, I wanted to dig even deeper to understand individual performance in itself. Many reports such as the one done by Mercer suggest that goal setting is a crucial part of performance management systems. Goal setting is very effective to help your employees focus and prioritize in the workplace.

I was curious to understand what was the underlying motive behind goal setting i.e. what are the intrinsic factors that goal setting taps into for an individual and the link between goal setting and performance. I found this great white paper by PageUp People on Neuroscience of Performance: People at their Best and here are some of the highlights.

Understanding Performance

When we set goals, whether they are personal or work related, we immediately channel our attention. When our brain is not focused on anything, we are deploying energy in all possible ways. A specific and measurable goal creates focus and energy: your brain starts filtering information in the environment directly relevant to achievement of the goal. Once we consciously focus on a goal, our brain subconsciously evaluates goal-relevant information that can help us reach the end result.

Goals motivate work performance. Another interesting finding is that we gain more satisfaction from reviewing completed goals. On the other hand, we are more motivated by what still needs to be done. Being able to look back at previous completed goals is very important to keep setting more objectives – reviewing them brings out positive intrinsic feelings such as pride and happiness. Goal setting also raises self-confidence, as we recognize our own ability and competence in achieving the goals that we have set for ourselves.

Pushing Performance in Organizations

How is the process of goal setting implemented in the performance management system of an organization? The American Psychology Association (APA) conducted a survey on Workplace Survey and found that in 2012, 60% of employees report that their employer provided them with sufficient opportunities to be involved in decision making and goal setting, but only half of the workers said they regularly participated in these activities. PageUp People found factors that contributed to dissatisfaction with organizational performance management:

  • Static annual events rather than real time dynamic exchanges

  • Poor alignment between organizational and personal performance goals

  • Disconnect between performance management, learning and development, and career planning.

Goal setting requires communication, commitment, buy-in, and negotiation by everyone involved. There are different ways for you to implement goal setting in your organization to improve performance. Here are some of the best practices that I have experienced in different companies.


Clients often ask me what are the best practices on how to set up goals for their employees. The best practice is definitely having a conversation regarding the objectives and the key results. It is important for the employees to communicate what they want to do to help make an impact, and for managers to discuss their expectations in terms of performance. Some managers like to have an open communication regarding objectives with the whole team while others will arrange 1:1 coaching sessions to set goals with the employees. When employees become more comfortable with setting objectives, they will do it on their own and ask for feedback from their managers.


When an employee set a goal and share it with the organization, this shows a level of commitment. Adding a deadline increases the level of commitment from the employees’ perspective as they are accountable to delivering the results on a specific time. The other crucial part is to have the managers’ commitment as well. Commitment is NOT micromanaging. The commitment from your managers consists of keeping track of the employees’ progress, setting up follow-ups to talk about the goals and any obstacles, and providing the appropriate level of support.


LEAD BY EXAMPLE. For you to implement goal setting in your performance management, you need the buy-in of your executive team including your CEOs. If you want to embrace transparency of individual goals within the organization, your management team needs to be on board as well. You want to show your employees that you are working as a team with them to achieve your organizational goals. If you, the CEO, have not completed your goal 100%, you still want to show it to your organization.


One big question that comes up often when it comes to goal setting is how challenging should a goal be. It is definitely a matter of striking the right balance. Some companies like to have stretch goals for each of the employees with an understanding that if they achieve .8 or .75, they will meet the expectations of managers. There needs to be a process of give and take when setting up a goal. Setting something too challenging will demotivate your employees; on the other hand, something easily attainable will not necessary push your employees to reach their full potential.

Many of 7Geese users come to us because they have completely embraced goal setting and need a platform to share, communicate and track each objective in an organization. Tools such as an excel file is great to start with. As you grow bigger in size, an objective tracking software becomes crucial to store all of the objectives being set in the organization as well as having real-time progress on what everyone is working on.

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