Effective Goal-Setting: Four Keys That Will Optimize Performance

“New Year, New Beginnings”...

It’s a phrase that sounds GREAT; but if we’re honest, sometimes, the pep talk intended to inspire a nation can fall….flat.  Look around, it's now April. The first quarter of the year is a wrap!  How much have you accomplished with respect to the goals that you set on 1/1?  If your answer is "Not Much", I completely understand.  

We’ve all been there.  We lock ourselves in rooms, cater food, break out the Dry Erase markers, and get busy.  We set our sights, adjust our focus, and launch forward with a full head of steam towards our next immediate destination.  We’re full of excitement, in full anticipation of eventually placing our flag at the pinnacle of whatever mountain we’re climbing.  Then, there’s that avalanche.  Or, perhaps it’s a subtle drift caused by a shaky compass.  Whatever the case may be, one day we look up and the destination that our eyes could once laser through is looming far in the distance behind a foggy haze. 

Soon, it will be July and we’re loathing the idea of assessing our mid-year progress.   

However, when it does, here are a few pointers that can make all of the sandwich trays and caffeinated drinks worth it.  

Be S.M.A.R.T

Specific - What exactly do you want to accomplish? Now isn’t the time to be vague.  Express your target or desired outcome in a sense of clarity that would make crystal jealous. Envision the outcome and describe it at its lowest level. 

Ex: "Increase web traffic" vs. "Increase web traffic sourced from Google"

Measurable - Can the goal be expressed in a quantifiable fashion? For example, "Increase web traffic sourced from Google by 10%"

Attainable - Does the goal represent an actual end state? 

Realistic - Do we have the resources? Do we have the tools and capabilities? Do we have the time required to hit the target? 

Timely - Speaking of time, is there a finite window in which we expect to accomplish this goal? If so, is it expressed within the goal itself? For example, "Increase web traffic sourced from Google by 10% by Q3 2016"

Be succinct

Nobody wants to read a novel that could have been a post-it note.  In our excitement, its very easy to get colorful and turn a performance management document into prose.  As we’ll discuss in the next point, it’s important not to lose your audience.  Where possible, ditch the trendy jargon and express goals in a way that others can easily understand (and not fall asleep to). 

Be sensitive to the needs of others

Seek input in order to secure buy-in from your colleagues.  It’s important that goals reflect not only the desires of a select few, but they exhibit some level of consideration for those who are expected to help drive.  This boosts employee engagement and ultimately, RESULTS.  According to a study done by Gallup, companies with engaged employees outperform those that don’t by 202%.  

Be sincere

Sustainable growth begins internally.  That is the crux of our philosophy here at Appleseed.  We truly believe that it should be baked into your goal setting process as well.  When setting goals, it is critical to take an honest assessment of your current state.  Ask the questions and do the research to ascertain that you are who you think you are.  Understanding your starting point will help to determine end goals that inspire others, as opposed to inundating them.