Poorly Worded Performance Goals … No, No, No!

Performance ManagementThe answer is neither. Goals have proven value, so “no goal” is not an option. But the same applies to a “fuzzy” goal. Here are a few suggestions to help you develop job or performance goals that are well defined, understandable, and readily accepted.

Your team members must understand how what they do on the job fits into the bigger picture of the unit, organizational or departmental goals. Try to help the team develop and understand a clear vision of what is important. It is also important to let the team know that the reason for certain work is to meet specific internal and external customer expectations.

Use this information to guide goal setting, how you will plan and track the work to measure your successes. By communicating these expectations and performance measurement, the team will feel more connected to the effort and may be able to help others connect with the organizational goals.

Link Job and Organizational Goals
Team members are more confident if they know what is important to the organization and how their work supports those objectives. An additional benefit is that they will feel more motivated to do the work because they see its value. To maintain this motivation, regularly discuss with the team and get their reactions to your points so you’ll know how to direct or redirect your efforts.

Measure Objectives
Ensure that the objectives for your team are measurable in terms of how many, at what cost, when, and quality level. We also realize that not every factor is within your influence or control, but you do have control over the part of the results you’re expected to control and achieve. You have heard of “stretch” goals. However, be careful to set realistic objectives that are challenging, but not so difficult that they have no reasonable chances of being achieved.

Track Progress
You need clear and timely information showing the team’s progress toward meeting the goals. If you are on target, then keep doing what you’re doing. If not, make adjustments soon enough to be sure you will meet the objectives. Some tracking sources, depending on your industry, could include reports of daily production, weekly activity, weekly customer calls, or monthly sales. If your work is technical, calendars, project plans, schedule, time logs, audit results, quality specifications or certificates of completion could be used in an appropriate manner.

Similar Goals for Similar Jobs
You should focus your energies and discover some high-payoff activities that will make it easier for you to meet your objectives. Don’t be afraid to ask your leader to share their performance plan with you so you can focus on the most important activities. Your team is depending on you to accomplish your goals. Reduce the possibility of failure by making sure the goals are clear and you have the support you need.

During the course of the measuring period, monthly, quarterly or annually, you will provide feedback to your team for a variety of reasons. It is essential that feedback must be timely, clear and objective. Focus on specific performance or behavior and avoid destructive criticism.

You may have some associates that lack motivation, others that are not well trained or may not have the required skills. It is better to discover the exact cause of the performance issue because the remedy will need to be the unique to each person and situation. Be careful to withhold judgment until you fully understand the situation. You must listen actively and carefully. Ask a lot of “open ended” questions to get the complete picture. Explain the problem as clearly as you can but be careful to criticize the performance not the person. For each major issue, restate and reestablish the performance goal.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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