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Top 10 goal-setting mistakes


“Goals are dreams with deadlines.” Diana Scharf Hunt, author and time management expert

Most managers fall short in their goal-setting process. Consequently, their teams are much less likely to achieve their goals. Here are 10 common goal-setting mistakes and how you can rectify them.

  1. Imposed: The command-and-control manager shoves goals downward, not trusting the employee to draft goals for discussion. The result is a frustrated employee who works half-heartedly.

     Remedy: Use a collaborative, dialogue process to gain commitment.

2. Done in the Dark: Most managers don’t reveal their own goals to their team. Why? Because if the manager revealed his or her goals and failed to meet them, it would be embarrassing.

Remedy: Good goal-setting cascades downward in an organization. Share your goals (using these process tips), and ask your team to draft their goals in their area of focus to help you achieve your goals. That’s goal alignment.

3. Beyond Their Control: Too many bosses demand goals that are too broad for the range of control of their team.

       Remedy: Ensure your team’s goals are substantially under their control.

4. Too High: Too often goals have too much stretch in them, making them unreachable and demotivating.

Remedy: Most goals should have about a 90 percent chance of achievement, but some goals can be “stretch” goals with closer to 50-60 percent. Set an incentive (not necessarily financial – see 7 below) if they beat the goal by 5 or 10 percent.

5. Not Measurable: Too many goals are vague or open-ended without specific measures. Becoming world-class in your field is a vision, not a goal.

     Remedy: A goal must be written down with a measurable performance metric and a date by which to achieve it.

6. Too Many: Goals are the major objectives the employee should strive to achieve over a defined time period. More than three of four major goals are overwhelming.

     Remedy: Agree on three to four major goals with each of your employees to focus on in the next time period (e.g., one year).

7. Not Relevant: Too many goals are not essential to the mission of the unit involved, or to the desires of the employee (e.g., professional growth, leadership experience, learning to be innovative, fun to achieve, etc.)

Remedy: Define the major goals in the context of why your unit exists. Ensure your goal setting is germane to the purpose of your unit and to the interests of each member of your team.

8. Too Narrow: Are your goals only financial in nature, like cost reduction or revenue growth?

     Remedy: Consider a goal for each of your major stakeholders, such as customers (internal or external), employees, and owners or shareholders.

9. Not Prioritized: Too often goals conflict with each other: quality improvement versus short-term cost reduction for example, or customer satisfaction versus annual financial performance.

     Remedy: Prioritize your goals, for example: First, a customer satisfaction goal. Second, an employee satisfaction goal. Third, a financial performance objective. (Good financial performance results from satisfied employees who serve customers well.)

10.  Not Often Revisited: The annual performance review where you for the first time review goal achievement to see how much of a bonus or raise to recommend is as dead as command-and-control leadership. So is the quarterly check-in on goal performance.

Remedy: Review goal progress in weekly one-on-one meetings with each of your employees. The world is moving fast, and goal adjustments may be warranted. You’ll also learn what roadblocks are in their way. You can help remove them.

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Bob and Gregg Vanourek

Bob and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, current and former Colorado residents, are co-authors of "Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations," a 2013 International Book Awards winner. Bob is the former CEO of five companies and was recently designated as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior 2013. Gregg has co-authored three books and teaches entrepreneurship at the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. Web: http://triplecrownleadership.com/ Twitter: @TripleCrownLead

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