Before setting individual goals, you’ll first want to determine what the overall goals and expectations of your team or company are. A great book to read is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. This book outlines the importance of starting with why in order to set the expectations of your company and employees.
Once you’ve determined the “why”, you should be able to set overall goals for your team to achieve the mission. Goals to support the mission could be based on a quantifiable metric or an intangible quality score. Whatever the goal make sure it’s measurable, explainable and always aligns with your “why”.
When setting goals, you’ll want to assess prior performance. Once the prior performance has been established, set a goal to improve upon it. Don’t worry about setting difficult or “stretch” goals, but make the goals incremental. If the team made 5 widgets yesterday, set a goal to make 6 today and 7 tomorrow. That way by the end of the week, you’re team is making 9 widgets a day. If you set a goal to improve by 50%, makes sure there are incremental and achievable goals with adequate time for achieving each step. If I said I want 9 widgets a day by the end of the week, this could be overwhelming and be setting the team up for failure. But if I ask the team to shoot for just 1 more than they did the day before, this could be achievable.
Once the goal is set, you should be able to ask any employee at any time, “based on our goals, are we successful?” If the answer is “yes”, mission accomplished. If they answer is, “I don’t know”, then you haven’t clearly defined the goals – time to start over. If the answer is “no”, then it should always be followed up with another question, “why not?” After asking this question, expect quite a few blank looks. This usually just means the question is too broad and not that they don’t know why they missed the goal. You’ll want to be more specific in your follow up “why not” question. What were the roadblocks? What issues did you encounter? Was the goal too difficult? How can we ensure we meet the goal next time? These are questions that cause the team to think about missed goals. Failure is always acceptable if you can learn from it and prevent it from happening again. Repeated failure or failure that can’t be learned from means you either need to reassess the goal or reassess the team member.
When setting goals, you need to communicate effectively what your expectations are, especially if your expectations are unquantifiable. If you’re expectations are to have x, y and z completed at n quality, then you need to explain exactly what each letter represents in the deliverable. Be ready for follow up questions.
It is in human nature to baulk at “stretch” goals, but I firmly believe quality individuals will always rise to the level of your expectation. Difficult or seemingly unachievable expectations will force these quality individuals to improve either their process or work habits. There are only 24 hours in the day regardless of who you are. Successful people find ways to make the most of those 24 hours; while unsuccessful people use the time explaining how there aren’t enough hours in the day to be successful.
When these goals are reached find creative ways to reward the achievements. Sometimes a simple gift card to a local restaurant can speak volumes. Identify how each team member likes to be rewarded. Do they like money, group praise, or more responsibility? Once you’ve identified the method, do it randomly. If you do it too frequently, it will become the norm and be expected. If you don’t do it often enough, you will forget about it all together. Also, do not continue to give the reward or praise to the same individual over and over again, this could be perceived as favoritism, but we’ll talk more about that in a later post.