Set Effective Goals

One of the best ways to direct yourself and your team is through clear goal setting and measuring performance against those goals. Likely when it comes time to set goals your Human Resources department provides training on SMART goals and how to use them. This is clearly an intelligent way to think about goals – but there are a couple more things to consider.

  1. Goals must be your own
  2. Goals should be difficult to achieve

First, it is important that goals set are goals you want to complete. They can’t be pushed on you by a partner, boss or society. A great example of this is Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues; he created 12, but was pushed to add humility to the list. He acquiesced, but never achieved it as it wasn’t his. Keep this in mind when setting your goals or helping others set theirs. It is worth the effort to find goals which are owned rather than being provided with goals. While it is often difficult getting inside the minds and motivations of others to make this happen for your team, it is necessary to effect the desired results.

Second, goals shouldn’t be too easy. People put in their best effort when goals are challenging. They put in the least effort when goals are seen as trivial or impossible. Accordingly, good goals should be like Goldilocks’ perfect porridge; not too hard, not too easy, but just right. In this case, just right should be goals which are achievable about 80% of the time. More than that and your team will take them for granted, too much less and they may not bother trying at all.

Whose Goals Are These?

For further reading: Locke and Latham summarized 35 years of goal research in an article that appeared in the journal American Psychologist.

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