Many organizations divide the annual review period into a series of steps to complete throughout the year. The first step in many organizations is to set aside a definitive time to create goals.
If you’re organization follows this model, you may get an instruction – sent out to everyone – to document and record your goals. Your organization might accomplish this through a system like SuccessFactors, an integrated goal and performance management platform to record, update and evaluate your goal progress. Your organization may use an Excel spreadsheet, or other product, such as OneNote, to record goals. Regardless of what tool you use, the key to a successful goal process is to identify the goal, document it, and then take the appropriate actions to achieve the goal.
Seems simple right? Then why do so many of us struggle to feel successful and to accomplish our goals? Let’s take a look at a few obstacles to successful goal management. You’ll see how we can “shift our intentions” to help us accomplish our goals.
Here are a few things to help you consider what your goals should be and how you should write them.
1) Who are you creating the goals for? In order for you to be invested in the goal and be interested in its success, it has to be something you want to do enough to commit time and energy towards achieving it. If you’re creating the goals for someone else, you’re not likely to take them as seriously as you will if they’re truly meaningful to you.
Have open and honest conversations with your manager. Review your company’s strategic vision and goals. The goals you and your manager agree to should align your passions and interests, the requirements of your position, and the company’s vision and goals. When you play a key part in setting and selecting goals, you not only feel successful if you achieve them, but you have the satisfaction of helping your company’s success.
2) Create only as many goals as you can legitimately focus on and achieve in the available time. Your company’s performance management process may provide some guidance on the minimum or maximum amount of goals they would like you to be held accountable for. Just because the communication says you can have eight goals count towards your review, doesn’t mean that eight is correct for you. If you know you can legitimately spend your time on four good goals vs just listing eight because that is what you think is desired, create four goals!
3) Create the goal using positive words. If possible, write down the goal with what you hope to achieve if you are successful, instead of focusing on what you plan on stopping or not doing. Take for example a typical personal goal, “I want to stop working late.” This goals focuses on something you do not want to do, vs what you really hope to do if you are successful in your goal – spend more time going to your children’s after school activities or working on a hobby. Successful goal attainment in either case will be you working less, but framing it affirmatively keeps your focus on the future you’re working to create. You’re more likely to get there that way.
In other words, sometimes it’s useful to trick your brain. Don’t document your goals thinking about the negative, because what you see is what you focus on. The more negative you feel towards a goal, the less likely you are to work towards achieving it or care about it.
4) Focus on little wins. Many of us receive compensation and other job rewards based on our achievement of measurable goals. We know that to get a promotion or raise we have to successfully achieve certain goals. How you measure achievement could actually be hindering your ability to see the forest from the trees. The greatest success often comes from taking small steps in the direction of a goal, and celebrating each small win along the way. This keeps you motivated, and increases the chance you’ll achieve the big goal.
Note: Here is where you can get a little creative. I have come up with a few tips/tricks to help myself stay positive, on track, and working towards achieving my goals.
- Creating periodic Outlook reminders to ask me how I am doing and record my progress.
- Little post it note pick me ups my desk to keep working hard!
- Once I accomplish a crucial piece of my goal, I celebrate it – whether it be with a ½ hour workout or a nice glass of wine, it is the thought that counts.
- Schedule time with my manager dedicated only to speak about my goals and goal progress.
5) Be flexible. Day to day we set out what we hope to accomplish by the end of the day – at least I know that is one of my strategies for organizing my day. Of course, when I review what I have I have completed, rarely does it match the plan. Goal setting and the annual review often follow the same pattern: At the beginning of the year, we document our best guess goals. As the year progresses, a lot happens, personally and professionally, that make it necessary to edit a goal, remove a goal, or create a new one based on today’s priorities. Build in latitude to adjust goals – in conversation with your manager. That way, the year-end review becomes an exercise in reviewing things that actually matter.
6) Know what motivates you and build it into your strategy for goal achievement. People are all motivated by different things: money, time off, special recognition, a dedicated parking spot…. It really could be anything. Know what motivates you, and use it to your advantage. Tie goal achievement to what drives you.
I know that I hate to spend money, so if I am really struggling to complete a goal, I will tie a financial metric to it that I have to do if I am NOT successful. For instance, complete this goal in the required time period, or you will have to pay your significant other $10. Even for a small amount, I will work my butt off to not have to pay my husband money. While this is not a traditional way to talk about goal achievement, it is one that I use personally and professionally to stay motivated.
You don’t need an in depth education to master goal setting techniques. You do need to understand your company, your boss’ goals for you, and yourself. Throw every aspirational goal you have against the wall, then systematically walk through each one to figure out if it’s a good fit for you, meets the criteria above, and will let you be successful. The tips and pointers above should help you narrow down your goal list and allow for time to dedicate towards achieving your goals and ultimately receiving solid performance review scores and feedback.
What are some other strategies or thoughts you have used in the past to help you select and document your performance review goals?
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