Setting Great Goals

Goals define what we are expected to achieve. At work we are measured, and sometimes directly rewarded, on our achievement of the goals we have been set.goals

Managers and supervisors are expected to set goals for their team members and many will use the acronym SMART to do this. The “A” in SMART stands for achievable. But why is this important and how do we know if a goal is achievable?

Edward Locke, an American psychologist, was one of the first people to recognise the link between goals and performance. Indeed, one of the key conclusions of his research into goals and motivation was that there is a linear and positive relationship between hard, but achievable, goals and performance. This comes about because if you aim for great, you will only get good. If you aim for good you then will get average and if you aim for average then you will get poor results.

How achievable a goal is believed to be is greatly influenced by peoples’ perceptions on how much harder or bigger the goal is to previous goals they have been set. If we have no previous experience to base our judgements on then we are more likely to think “yes I can” rather than “why I can’t”.

There are many examples of this type of mind set shift which rely on the fact that if you have a bigger goal in your head, then smaller goals seem much more achievable. As Managers we can use this phenomenon by breaking down the large ambitious goals we have into smaller, more manageable, bite-size goals for our team. In doing this, we must not, however, lower the standards for the smaller goals – they still need to be stretching!

As a manager interested in positive performance management, if you believe that great is the only acceptable standard, and you actually go for it through the goals you set for your team, you’ll be surprised how much your team will achieve!