The Right Approach to Setting Employee Goals and Objectives

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Ideally, goals and objectives within an organization should cascade from the top. Each person should be responsible for establishing their own goals and work objectives in ways that are relevant to their job and support one or more organizational goals. If that’s true, then what’s the role of the manager in this area?

While it may be tempting for managers to pro-actively determine goals for their direct reports, that’s a big mistake. Organizations need to cultivate a culture of accountability, and employees are more likely to take their own goals seriously on a daily basis if they’ve had the opportunity to frame them and have input on how their success will be evaluated.

That’s not to say you as a manager shouldn’t have input into your direct reports’ goals. At least annually, you should have a goal-setting conversation with each person you oversee. Start out by laying out the high-level organizational or departmental goals. Once those are understood and clear, shift the focus to the employee using a simple question: “How can you help us meet these goals?” If they don’t cover certain aspects you think they should, gently steer them in that topical direction, again, without stating a specific goal. Once you’ve settled on a reasonable number and scope of goals, document them.

These goal-setting conversations can be tricky, but if you approach them strategically and conduct them with patience, you’ll get the kind of buy-in and performance you need from every employee in the organization. During each weekly review session, pull up that employee’s goals and ask them to describe their progress and their focus in those areas. What’s going well? Where do they need help? What obstacles are in their way?

But remember, in order for an employee to be able to set meaningful and value-adding personal goals and objectives, the organization must first communicate its own high-level goals and objectives in some detail. They also must create the expectation that those goals will flow throughout the company and that all employees will be accountable to help reach them.

Need help with this topic or leadership coaching? Contact Mission Critical Teams.