April 2019

Setting goals can be a painful, meaningless exercise for everyone, or it can be a powerful way to drive performance and keep your staff engaged and challenged. Here are some ideas for getting the most out goal setting.


feature insight

Great Goals, Great Performance

Great performance starts with great goals. That’s why challenging and meaningful goals are so important to performance management. When we create goals to align with our department’s priorities we’re also directing our attention and actions to what matters most.

Goals also guide development. Each step toward achieving a goal is an opportunity for you to provide feedback and coach your employee on their actions and behavior. Plus, talking with your employees regularly about their goals helps them to see their progress, and progress is both rewarding and addicting—progress drives more progress. Last, but not least, actually achieving goals builds character, confidence, and self-efficacy.

So how do you help your employees create meaningful goals that are challenging and achievable?

Fewer and Bigger. Talk with your employees about three to five of the most important contributions they can make throughout the year. Setting more than five goals can take the focus off of what’s most important.

Meaningful. A goal is most likely to drive development if it’s created for the purpose of development—as opposed to an administrative exercise. Yet goals should address the most important things that need to be accomplished within your unit.

The best goal is one that will push an employee to put forth a great deal of effort to achieve it and achieving the goal would be a significant accomplishment for the employee and your college or unit.

Behavioral and Objective. How a goal is achieved is as important as what’s achieved. Including specific behaviors with each goal will help to clarify how it will be achieved and also bring to light the skills needed to be successful.

Flexible. Today’s work environment changes so quickly that highly detailed goals often become outdated within a few months. To stay relevant, goals may need to change throughout the year. You can help your employees succeed by working with them to create goals that are significant and important, as well as broad and adaptable.

This is just one reason why checking in on goals throughout the year is so important. Use this time to discuss your department’s priorities as well as your employee’s progress on their goals. If they’re not making progress because of other priorities, it’s probably time to revise the goal.

Resources for Supervisors

  • Effective performance management starts with setting meaningful goals. Use this Quick Guide to Goal Setting to guide your conversations about goals.
  • Use this goal-setting template to help develop goals with your employees.
  • The HOW in goal setting comes from key competencies⏤knowledge, skills, and abilities. These key competencies are integral to meeting goals and improving performance.
  • Regular check-ins are an opportunity to talk about progress on goals and offer feedback. Use this Quick Guide and Check-in Template to help structure your discussion and to make sure your conversations are mutually beneficial.
  • The ability to provide feedback and coaching are vital skills. It’s your responsibility to support the development of your employees. Use these Quick Guides to Feedback and Coaching to build your skills.

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ask the experts

LTD consultants have expertise in leadership development, engagement, and supervisory development. If you have questions about the onboarding process and helping new employees become productive members of your team, send us an email. We'll do our best to respond and may even feature it in the next newsletter. Here's this month's featured question:

How do you balance setting measurable goals with the need to conduct day-to-day business?

Goals often seem like special projects and may distract or hinder meeting day-to-day needs of the job. First, goals should link up to the priorities and objectives of your department and college or unit. Use your one-on-one meetings to talk about goals and priorities and adjust goals as priorities change. This way, goals stay aligned and are updated to reflect the needs of the day-to-day work.


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