Your Goal Setting Sucks. Here’s How to Fix it

December 1, 2014 - 5 minute read - Posted by

Ask any business if they have goals and they will probably say yes. Some will recite them by memory, some will proudly display them on their website, and some will brag how theirs are better than their competitors.

It’s something most of us are proud of, because we can all agree that when done right goals give us direction and motivation.

The problem is, we aren’t doing it right. In fact a lot of us are failing at it. We’re setting the wrong goals, using incorrect verbiage, and not investing in the right goal processes. Consequently we’re not getting any better.

Whether you are new to goal setting, or in the process of revamping yours, I recommend you ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are your goals measurable? If you don’t measure, how can you improve? Some companies will have a goal like “optimal efficiency,” but how will you know when you have achieved this? Give your goals a quantifiable element so you know exactly when you’ve hit it.

  1. Are you confusing goals with core values? Many companies list goals like “Excellence.” This isn’t a goal, it’s likely part of your Core Values.  Real goals are quantifiable with deadlines; core values are your foundational beliefs.  Your goals may tie back to your core values, but they’re not the same thing.

  2. Do your goals align with other departments? You may have the best goals out there, but if they don’t align with other departments or the company, then you are just spinning your wheels.

  3. Are you goals ambitious enough? Everyone wants to feel like a winner, but setting goals too attainable don’t allow you to understand your potential. If you know for sure that you are going to achieve 100% of your goals, challenge yourself to reach more. We call this a stretch goal.

  4. Are you goals too ambitious? Stretch goals are great– but within reason. You may aspire to be the best software company on earth but that type of goal can work against you, because every time you measure your progress, you will be far off. This leaves your employees thinking “We’re getting nowhere, this isn’t worth it.”

  5. Are your goals specific? Your goals must be clear and unambiguous. They should say exactly what is expected, why it’s important, who is involved, where it’s happening, and which attributes are important. In other words, it should answer the 5 Ws.

  6. Are your goals public? When I say public, I don’t mean on your website, or on a wall. I mean “Are they public for your employees to view?” Seeing what colleagues are doing will not only help you understand what others are doing, but will also align your efforts with theirs.

  7. Does your work relate to your goals? It seems like an obvious question, but we often indirectly work on things that have nothing to do with our goals, or the company’s goals. For example, if you are working in marketing and your sales department has a goal of achieving a certain dollar value of new business, do the tasks you have planned also relate to attracting new prospects?

  8. Were your goals decided by one person? Goals need to be agreed on not just by a manager or a team, but the employees. What may seem achievable to you may not be realistic for your employees. Empower them to contribute. Also, by giving them a stake in goal setting, you are giving them more control over their success.

  1. Did you arbitrarily pick your goal? Don’t make the mistake of setting goals based on what your competition is doing, or what you think you should do. Your goals should be relevant right now to you and your business. For example, if you’re setting a sales quota, don’t arbitrarily pick a number. Look at your historical data, understand past trends, and recognize your team’s abilities.

Finally don’t forget to review your goals.  Sit down monthly or quarterly and look closely at what worked and what didn’t. Once this is done it’s time to set brand new goals–just don’t forget to take some time to celebrate your success first.

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