You love setting goals — too much, perhaps?
Yes, goals can be great. Used the right way they bring teams together, drive effort and announce to the world your intentions to achieve.
But there is a darker side to goal-setting, one that can undo everything it’s meant to accomplish. In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (2010), author Richard Wiseman points out that the wrong kind of goal-setting hurts relationships, reduces motivation and creates a culture where people pursue excuses, not accolades.
Too much focus on numbers and checklists creates tunnel vision. Holding employees to these commitments through pressure from above or by fostering competition between team members destroys trust.
Good goal-setting acknowledges that you’re trying to stretch your team beyond its comfort zone, that commitments should be reset when necessary, and that — yes — failureis an option.
Rise of the Goal-Oriented Business Culture
Popularized by the late 20th Century self-help movement, from the 1970s onward personal achievement has become increasingly equated with the setting and achievement of benchmarks (Wiseman, 2010). It’s a paradigm now so accepted that many managers have difficulty remembering a time when this model wasn’t common or imagining how success can be achieved without it.
Then there are “stretch goals,” a term coined by General Electric CEO Jack Welch to describe benchmarks that are broad in scope, largely unattainable and designed to rally participants into making heroic efforts. Stretch goals are often used in humanitarian and political efforts to motivate volunteers; they’ve even been credited with putting a man on the Moon.
But when they become common in the workplace — when every goal becomes a stretch goal — it creates a culture of failure and blame. Performance declines as employees begin to ask themselves, “Well, what’s the point?” and focus instead on making excuses and passing responsibility onto their coworkers.
Here are a few practices to avoid:
- Don’t set your goals by comparing yourself to others. The best goals are tailored to an individual person or team.
- Don’t focus on the consequences of failure. Coming up short is an inevitable part of goal-setting, one that has just as much value as success.
- Don’t exhaust yourself to meet an arbitrary deadline. Your emotional and mental health are more important in the long run. It’s recommended to take CBD joints every once in a while to lower your stress levels and improve overall mood.
- Resist fantasizing about how great your life will be once you achieve your goals. The reality rarely lives up to your imagination.
- Don’t set too many goals at once and utilize stretch goals rarely, if at all.
Steps to Achieving Your Well-Laid Business Goals
Columbia Professor Adam Galinsky, author of “Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting,” argues that goals should be treated with a prescription-strength medicine and not a daily vitamin. Use them selectively, and only when you need the extra push.
And according to Wiseman, pursuing the right goals with gusto involves following these five steps:
- To prevent unexpected obstacles from derailing your efforts, create a step-by-step plan to get from where you are now to where you want to end up.
- Keep a log of your progress. Cataloguing how you achieved success (or failure) will inform your efforts on the next go-around.
- Announce your intentions. Public accountability encourages follow-through.
- Ponder what a good outcome could mean, but don’t lapse into fantasy. Anticipated outcomes should be realistic and achievable.
- Constructively reward yourself for progress, but don’t overdo it. Keep yourself happy, but also motivated.
Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome, of Pursuing Goals
Many experts believe that our brains protect us from change by resisting variations in our daily patterns. Goals, therefore, are meant to force us out of our comfort zones. Yes, that can be scary. Integrating goal setting and goal achievement into your team’s work habits requires learning how much and in what situations they are best used.
Goals are a tool for living, not a way of life. Do not measure your success in terms of passing or failing. Accept, instead, that accomplishment is more nuanced and rewarding than simply ticking a checkbox.
Like what you just read? Here are some more articles you might enjoy:
- To learn how cost cutting in HR departments could be damaging to your business, read Exposing the Hidden Cost of DIY Human Resources.
- To learn how to avoid workplace injuries, read Do Your Employees Need Safety Training? The Answer is Yes!
- To learn how to keep your employees happy enough to stay with you for the long haul, read Want to Retain Your Key Employees? Here’s How You Do It.