How Will You Know When You Get There?
You’ve had the 360-degree developmental assessment or perhaps a performance discussion with your manager. He or She looks up with a smile and says “now that we have agreed on your goals for development, when do you think you could get a written list to me?” You are relieved; the performance review went fairly well and the expectations for next year’s performance, while not within easy reach, are reasonable. So, when asked to produce a written list of goals, you think…”no problem”. That is, until you sit down to actually produce this seemingly “innocent” document!
How do you know how to write clear, quantifiable, behavioral goals?
Most of us did not have “Writing Effective Performance Goals” as part of our education or training. Where do you turn for direction on producing this not so innocent document? After all, goal statements will probably be an integral part of next year’s performance evaluation. In my experience, resources are not easily found.
WHERE TO START:
- Before you leave the meeting with your manager, be very clear about the organization’s current strategic plan. All goals should flow from this. Do not hesitate to clarify your understanding of the organization’s strategic plan with your manager. Where is the organization headed at this time? How does your manager interpret the department’s contribution to enacting the strategic plan? It is imperative that you and your manager are on the same page as to where the organization and the department are headed. The more specifically this is defined, the better. There cannot be too much clarity here—your success depends upon it.
- Know exactly what your manager’s goals state. What does he/she see as successful departmental performance for this year? Has your manager written goal statements for the department? Review these; there may be important clues as to what he/she is looking for in your goal statements.
- Envision what successful achievement of your goals will look like. Again, be very specific. These will have to be translated into something quantifiable, so specificity is imperative. Ask yourself:
If I were successful in achieving this objective;
What would be happening now?
What would be different?
What would I be doing more of?
What would I be doing less of?
What would my reports be saying about me?
What would my reports be doing differently?
What would my team members be saying or doing differently?
What would my manager be saying or doing differently?
How would I be spending my time?
These are just some of the types of questions that assist you in beginning to get detailed in your thoughts.
- How will successful achievement of these goals be measured? Will I need survey data? Will departmental or organizational performance yield quantifiable data to illustrate change? Another source is qualitative data in the form of written feedback from reports, team members and customers. While not as easily trusted, qualitative data can be a useful adjunct to quantitative data or where obtaining quantitative data is not possible. Careful design of how to obtain qualitative data is critical to validity, however. Outline specific measures for the proof or evidence of successful goal achievement or else how will you know when you get there?
- Once written, evaluate how your goals interface and support departmental and organizational objectives. For example, if a personal goal is to improve communication skills, successful achievement of this goal will affect your interactions with customers. If a departmental or corporate goal is to “improve customer relations”, the congruence is evident.
- Finally, goal statements can be a “fluid” document, reflecting ongoing realities both internal and external to the organization and individual. This is not to say revision can be used to “excuse” non-attainment of goals, but rather to evaluate, with your manager, whether a mid-course adjustment is warranted. (Not a step to be taken lightly.)
- Ask for a mid-year review, if your manager does not offer it. This again assures that you are “pulling in the same direction”. It also illustrates your dedication to continuous improvement of your performance. Are mid-course corrections warranted? Does your manager see the changes you have made so far? Are you in agreement about these changes? Has department or organizational strategy changed?
Crafting goals in a clear, behavioral manner can be a daunting task for many of us. Like any skill, you get better at it with practice. Review as you go along. A good coach could also be a resource in goal development. Remember to do your reports a favor by mentoring them on how to develop useful goals.Too often goal statements are cumbersome “afterthoughts” with little practical utility. If developed thoughtfully, with specificity and the ability to be quantified, goal statements can serve as a useful map and record for continuous self-improvement.