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The Biggest Goal-Setting Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

By Michael Heller Goal Setting

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Post Updated: April 23, 2018

“Goals are like your roadmap in life or a compass, if you don’t know where you want to go, you can never get there.” 

-Spyros Thalassinos (@sthalassinos), Founder of Design Haven

We harp on productivity numbers and calculate the ROI of employee programs with the hope that all the attention will result in better performance. What if the real stalemate was way earlier than that? What if performance was being stunted as soon as day one? Unfortunately, many leaders neglect to set performance goals for their workers which means that roadmap Thalassinos mentions either doesn’t exist or is rudimentary and unorganized. Employees need that direction for their own success, but also to ensure their job is realizing its full potential for your company.

Are you making any of these common mistakes when setting goals with your employees?

“Goals are like your roadmap or a compass…” ~@sthalassinos

Mistake! Not Setting Goals.

One of the most common goal-setting mistakes is not setting any to begin with. Only 36% of organizations have a standard, company-wide strategy for setting goals. There’s a good chance this means your organization is overlooking the importance of establishing objectives, which is a disaster for your tenured team, but an even bigger missed opportunity for those new hires you’ve spent so much time attracting.

Are you part of the 36% of organizations with a standard goal-setting strategy? Why you should be: Click To Tweet

Solution: There isn’t a shortcut. Take control of your organization and the achievements you aspire to see by simply creating a goal setting process leadership and employees can follow. It’s pivotal that you use something that’s scalable from executives all the way to interns. It will help build habits and ensure everyone is knowledgeable on what it takes to move through the goal process with confidence. Plus, it reminds the company that no one is too new or experienced to make themselves better and push their professional boundaries.

BONUS: While we can’t give you shortcuts in creating this process, we can say that our real-time feedback tool gives you and your employees the ability to connect performance goals to specific feedback and communication. It reduces confusion and ambiguity in deliverables but also clarifies expectations of the leader and employee.

Mistake! Making Goals Too Easily-Attainable.

How can you see greatness if you don’t set yourself up for it from the beginning? Some people will find a lucky break, but in business, it’s usually those who make it a point to plan for amazing feats that actualize them. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with focusing on the little tasks that lead to the end of a big project, but those are the daily goals, not the big ones we use to guide career trajectory or the achievements of the company. When setting goals with employees, it’s important that you find a balance between a challenge and an obvious win. An even mix will mean a motivated and satisfied employee while too much of one can mean frustration.

Solution: Set goals with employees, not for them. The reason for this is two-fold. First, it ups the transparency and communication. Your employee will be able to provide input on the direction of their job, which means the goals that are set are both maintainable and of interest to them. Additionally, the process gives them a stake in reaching completion. Plus, this creates a more common goal. For instance, they are furthering their skills while upholding the company mission.

Mistake! Making Loose Goals.

How can your plan hold itself together if your goals aren’t specific enough to bind it all together in a tight knot? You have your plan all mapped out, but the one key ingredient you’re lacking is a sense of real direction. Though this mistake might seem obvious, one important factor for setting goals is to avoid making generalized benchmarks. For example, goals like “improve time management” or “increase overall efficiency” do nothing for pushing actual improvement if you don’t specify the impact you plan to achieve.

Solution: Quantify what you want to achieve. The best way to inspire growth and motivation is to create concrete goals to hurdle. Assign realistic and achievable values that push you to your limits, but also help actualize what you want to accomplish. For example, setting a goal like “increase personal productivity by 10-15%” helps give the goal realistic weight and provides a stable footing that will help launch future goals.

Mistake! Forgetting to Set Deadlines.

Using a loose due date or not including one at all causes a lot of issues when trying to set up a solid set of goals. Accountability helps keep goal-setting in perspective and helps push improvement along. Not using deadlines can result in a lack of a productive mindset, or the justification of micro-progress – the concept that once one small task is completed, it’s seen as a good enough step in the right direction to stop working (for the time being). Micro-progressions aren’t inherently negative by any means, but when they start adding up it pushes a goal’s expected deadline back further and further with each delay. Eventually it becomes a cycle of poor productivity as opposed to working as much as you can to achieve a given goal. In other words, it has the potential to remove the drive and passion behind seriously striving to improve.

Solution: Assign a due date to double-down on making the goal characteristics attainable. For example, making the goal to “increase personal productivity by 10-15% by next quarter” adds more gravity to the situation and lights a fire under your butt to get it done in a timely manner. The added pressure also keeps the goal’s progress from becoming lax. This may seem like a stretch, but no one ever said setting goals was easy. And not setting your standards high enough or making goals too generic or generalized opens the door for laziness and lack of accountability to creep in.

Mistake! Forgetting to Maintain Goals.

So maybe you have a goal-setting plan. You work hard to name common goals and align personal achievements to the company mission. Or maybe you don’t, but you are very goal-oriented and make it a priority to dig deep into the individual aspirations of the professionals in your company…but still, at the end of the year, those goals you’ve worked hard to develop are left unattained. The problem isn’t that you’ve neglected to set goals or even to make sure they are something that motivates your team. It’s that you’ve overlooked the objective planning stage. In order to actually hit goals, you’ve got to have a plan that will keep them on track.

Solution: Divide goals by projected timeframes and write them down. We place a lot of emphasis on writing things out, but did you know those who write down their goals are 50% more likely to actually achieve them? Your employee needs to leave your goal setting meeting with a physical list of the things they should achieve. To further the chances of achievement, you should help the employee develop a task and objective list that follows a week-by-week or month-by-month plan, depending on the size of the goal.

There’s no way around it, goal-setting is important for seeing real progress for your employees and in your organization. Without aspirations, things get stale and stagnant. With iRevü, you can be sure that every piece of feedback you provide is furthering the various goals you and your employee have established.

professionals laughing at table coffee

 

Mistake! Not Working Towards Your Goals Every Day.

As an extension of setting deadlines for your goals, not setting aside time every day to work towards them also sets progress back. When it comes to goal-setting and managing the improvement process, there’s really no such thing as “downtime,” but how can you devote time for improvement every day?

Solution: Plan a time-conscious schedule for your goals around the activities you’re already doing. You’re probably thinking that setting time aside to work towards your goals on top of everything you already have on your to-do list seems impossible, but it’s really not that complicated. In fact, whatever you’ve already got planned for your day already fits into your goal schedule because it functions as a part of the bigger picture. Say you’re working on a project at work and your goal is still the same as in the previous mistake about setting deadlines. Writing out how long it takes you to complete each project along the way helps you keep tabs on how much daily time you’re actually devoting to achieving your goal. That way, you have a physical image of how well you’re actually performing. Plus, having that physical image drawn out helps you track where you need to go for further improvement.

The key takeaway here is to view this mistake as an opportunity: you’re not adjusting your schedule so you can cram more things to do in your day, you’re changing your mindset to include a conscious effort to track what you’re doing to attain your goals and how it affects time management.

Mistake! Refusing Personal Change.

professionals at table with paperworkNobody’s perfect and, by extension, no goal plans are completely immaculate, meaning most goals do require some kind of sacrifice to achieve. In this case, say your goal is to “increase time management and productivity while on the clock.” You quantify it by saying you’ll raise productivity by 10% and you’ll show the results by the end of the month. You figure your phone is the biggest distraction to your time management and productivity levels so you decide to start improving there. Whether it’s cutting back on how much time you spend texting or how long you spend in the bathroom surfing the internet, something’s gotta give to make change happen.

Solution: Write out what negatively affects your goal and track how often it hinders how you strive to achieve it. Making a conscious effort to acknowledge what is holding you back will help identify what steps you need to take to prevent it from blocking your path to success. It’s not so much about sacrifice as it is about cleaning house – you’re eliminating the obstacles that are putting your progress on hold.

Mistake! Forgetting to Maintain Goals.

So maybe you have a goal setting plan. You work hard to name common goals and align personal achievements to the company mission. Or maybe you don’t, but you are very goal-oriented and make it a priority to dig deep into the individual aspirations of the professionals in your company…but still, at the end of the year, those goals you’ve worked hard to develop are left unattained. The problem isn’t that you’ve neglected to set goals or even to make sure they are something that motivates your team. It’s that you’ve overlooked the objective planning stage. In order to actually hit goals, you’ve got to have a plan that will keep them on track.

Solution: Divide performance goals by projected timeframes and write them down. We place a lot of emphasis on writing things out, but did you know those who write down their goals are 50% more likely to actually achieve them? Your employee needs to leave your goal setting meeting with a physical list of the things they should achieve. To further the chances of achievement, you should help the employee develop a task and objective list that follows a week-by-week or month-by-month plan, depending on the size of the goal.

Make it a priority to have employees write a physical list of goals each day. Here's why: Click To Tweet

There’s no way around it, goal-setting is important for seeing real progress in your employees and organization. Without aspirations, things get stale and stagnant. With iRevü, you can be sure that every piece of feedback you provide is furthering the various goals you and your employees have established.

Check out our guide to using real-time, frequent feedback and see how you can apply it to the productivity and satisfaction of your employees.

Michael Heller

Posted By Michael Heller

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