Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

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The establishment of individual employee goals and objectives can be stressful in many organizations, especially if this is a new concept. Employees often resent being held accountable for their actions. Their perception is that these actions are punitive rather than intended as a mechanism to move the organization forward.

While the establishment of individual goals or objectives is a critical process, managers should recognize that they might be dealing with employee groups with varying degrees of experience in goal setting and implementation.

It is important for managers to understand that these gaps in experience can affect the ultimate success or failure of an individual employee. With this in mind, managers must take steps to help employees succeed, which is dependent upon their personal levels of experience. They must recognize that some employees will need more assistance than others. The key is to dedicate the time required for all to be successful in the attainment of their individual goals.

Related: Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

The establishment of individual goals and objectives can be a stressful exercise for many employees. Though the process includes elements of an employee review, it is not an evaluation but a process of setting the employee’s direction for the future as well as coordinating individual goals with those of the organization. The following techniques and strategies should be utilized to successfully establish individual goals:

Listen

Before a manager begins the formal process of establishing individual goals and objectives with an employee, the first step is to allow the employee the time to express his or her ideas and feelings. This discussion should establish a good mood and should focus on the positive aspects of the employee’s job. If complaints are voiced, managers should ask the employee for ways to correct the problem. By giving an employee the opportunity to resolve a problem, the discussion remains focused on the positive aspects of his or her job while empowering them to develop a realistic solution.

Related: When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Be Forward Looking

Past performance of the employee will undoubtedly become part of the discussion. However, managers should keep the discussion focused on the future goals and objectives and avoid dwelling on past performance issues. This way the employee is focused on his or her future performance and not mired in past problems.

Be Candid

As managers move through the discussion of individual goals and objectives, they must be both candid and honest regarding the employee’s abilities so that obtainable goals can be established. This is a constructive, not negative, gesture in that it helps uncover what the employee is capable of and expected to achieve.

Small Steps

To many employees, individual goals can be overwhelming when viewed in their entirety. Managers can effectively ease these fears by breaking long-term objectives down into smaller, short-term targets that move the employee forward. Creating annual, quarterly and monthly goals that both the manager and employee can agree upon is the starting place; it is then the employee’s responsibility to break those goals into weekly and daily objectives.

It should be noted that not all employees have the skills to effectively plan their own activities. Managers should review this procedure with their people and perhaps walk them through the process of taking a month’s goals and breaking them down into weekly and daily objectives.

Secure Agreement

Once both the employee and manager have developed a realistic set of goals and objectives for the employee and demonstrated how to plan their weekly and daily activities around meeting them, both parties should secure an agreement. The agreement should focus on the individual objectives and how they will be accomplished.

Coordinate

Managers need to have a clear understanding of how each employee plans to reach their goals and the steps that will be taken to accomplish them. However, managers must make sure that all individual goals are aligned with the organization’s, as well as with those of other unit employees. Failure to do so can result in employees working against each other rather than cooperatively toward the mutual accomplishment of common goals and objectives.

Related: Five Strategies to Build Trust

Share

As managers are facilitators, whenever they see an opportunity or need, they should take the time to share their knowledge and expertise with employees regarding how to best reach their individual objectives.

Since goal setting can be a new experience for many employees, they may accept a goal and not know where to start or how to get there. When managers share their expertise, they are facilitating the success of the employee to achieve his or her individual goals. This is what makes the entire process both meaningful and worthwhile.

Remain Task-Oriented

Throughout the process of establishing individual goals and objectives, the climate should be warm, friendly and informal. Yet managers should ensure the process remains task-oriented, as well as be aware that they will need each employee’s assistance in the future to help attain their goals. The key is that all should be working together toward the accomplishment of mutual objectives.

Commit to Change

Managers should recognize that the establishment of goals and objectives is a commitment to change. With this in mind, employees may be resistant to change and fear the consequences it may bring. Employees may also be reluctant to commit to goals and objectives out of a personal fear that they will be unable to attain them.

Review

Once the goal setting process has been completed, managers should review each individual objective with the employee. These goals should be committed in writing with both the employee and manager receiving a file copy for future reference.

Excerpt: Strengthening Performance: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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7 Responses

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  1. Timothy, you’re right about the importance of future performance, not least because having a view of the future helps employees understand how they can improve in the present. There’s only one thing missing from the list here (although it’s implicit), – passion! Performance reviews and passion are seldom seen together in the same sentence but I do think that when helping employees understand where they might be in the future it’s crucial to paint a vision with words that sets the bigger picture and puts the objectives you’re agreeing in context.

    Ara Ohanian

    September 7, 2012 at 6:59 am

  2. With all due respect to the distinguished author of the article, organizations where “Employees often resent being held accountable for their actions” have a major management problem as it is the management that’s created the atmosphere in the first place.
    No amount of ‘technique’ from such management has any chance of motivating and focusing the employees on performance – not for the long run.
    On the other hand, when an employee’s job is defined in terms of the outcomes his or her job is supposed to achieve, you can then as a manager assist with goal setting, if the employee asks for help.
    The above old-fashioned authoritative process is likely to be construed as micromanagement when forced upon people.
    The latest research shows that challenge is a major motivating force at work, ahead even of financial reward.
    http://fora.tv/2010/01/27/Daniel_Pink_The_Surprising_Truth_About_What_Motivates_Us

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