#goals: In It to Win It from First Step to Finish Line

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October 11, 2017 | Bridge | HCI

Thousands of people had their intentions and hearts set on finishing the 2017 Chicago Marathon on Oct. 8, but not everyone could carry themselves through the city streets for 26.2 miles.

Those who cross the finish line steadily worked for it because they knew running a marathon would certainly be a stretch. Those who took the ultimate goal of 26.2 miles seriously broke it down into manageable parts, as experts advise, starting with no more than three or four miles at a time in the first week of training

Running coaches and organizational leaders face the same problem every day – stretch goals that never come to fruition, likely because goals aren’t transparent, employees aren’t held accountable, and managers don’t keep their people aligned with individual, team and company goals.

Take Ford Motor Company’s 1970 vision for the Pinto: a car that weighs less than 2,000 pounds and costs less than $2,000. It never happened. The goal was too overwhelming and left room for error in safety testing and design. 

Motivation expert Dr. Charles Kearns, according to the Graziado Business Review of Pepperdine University, said that goals are only attainable if they’re value-driven, measurable and practical. Once goals are defined, you must work to continually maintain alignment and keep everyone’s eyes on the prize.

Value-driven goals

What values are most important to your company, and does your team agree on what should be held most highly? If then end goal isn’t well-aligned with what your team or the business as a whole really cares about, they’re less likely to dedicate themselves to putting in work and holding themselves accountable.

Plus, the more consistently leaders demonstrate company values in their work and management, the more their team will trust them, according to Kearns.

Measureable goals

Instead of asking a big, hairy audacious goal of your employees, ask them to achieve smaller, more easily measured parts of that goal. Break your annual goal down into twelve parts and track progress along the way. Managers should be clear and concise when setting expectations – tell employees exactly what you want from them throughout the year for the duration of a project – transparency is a must.

If you’re going to measure progress against goals, managers need to meet with team members regularly to discuss progress made. Regular check-ins with employees promote accountability, strengthens relationship between employers and managers, and ensures long-term engagement.

For example, don’t say, “We’re going to generate $1 million of revenue this fiscal year.” Instead, say, “We’re going to generate revenue of about $83,000 per month.”

Practical goals

“Specific and difficult goals lead to better employee performance than vague or easy goals,” Kearns said. “Goals which are too easy are not motivating, because it feels like more of an accomplishment to achieve something you have worked hard for.”

Think about what your team is realistically capable of achieving, and also, how will you hold them accountable and challenge them to push their limits? If the goal is just tough enough, employees are more likely to push themselves, knowing that that victory is indeed possible.

Goals take work – a lot of work – and it takes so much more than defining goals for your team. Success lies in making each part of big goals crystal clear and making sure employees understand what’s needed to get there.

When managers and employees work closely to achieve objectives, it works wonders for strong relationships that are saturated in trust and can accomplish anything. While it’s up to managers to set goals, and so they’re more in control of outcomes, it’s best to highly involve employees and bring them into the process, which should include a good amount of feedback and touch points along the way.

Kearns said managers and employees should plan together, and map out a clear route that covers each step toward the ultimate goal and ensuring long-term performance. Check in with frequent feedback, track progress as a team and reevaluate what’s left in making success your reality.

Managers are a crucial source of focus and direction, motivation and empowerment, and keeping employees on track to win – in marathons and sprints, alike.

As a manager, share your vision and root for your people. There’s no ‘I’ in team, so everyone must be on board in order to make goals – and success - happen.

Are you ready to get ‘in it to win it?’ Start your journey to strategic goal achievement by joining us for Part 1 of the two-part series, [Workplace Goals], Set. Achieve. Repeat. on October 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern.