For a business to grow and improve, managers must set stretching goals or objectives for their people. Scorecards and personal objectives are a common tool in the modern workplace, but many managers still don’t really understand how to set the right goals. Make sure you set your team up for success with this simple guide to setting the best possible annual objectives.
Align with the bigger picture
Your team is probably one of many, and it’s vital that your goals or objectives match those of your peers. If you’re all pulling in different directions, it’s unlikely that anybody will get anywhere. Ask senior managers and leaders for the business’s strategic objectives. Is the business trying to become more profitable, or is the focus on rapid growth? Your leaders may want to focus on reducing costs, or they may want to create a superb place to work. Remember that it’s possible that your business wants to meet all these goals, but make sure you understand where the priorities are.
Plan ahead by looking back
The best way to work out what you want to do moving forward is to look at what you did last year. Where were your team’s biggest successes, and where were your main areas of opportunity? Your team’s targets need to focus on those areas where you really need to improve, as well as those areas where your team has shown its talents. Use data and performance reporting, as well as feedback from your customers or colleagues to generate ideas for the areas that you need to target.
Focus on a few, vital
Businesses and managers often make the mistake of focusing on too many areas of improvement. There’s a very strong argument that it’s much better to do really well in a few ways, and not spread yourself so thinly that you are only ever OK or average. Where can you make the biggest gains? Where can you drive the most growth or save the most money? While your leaders expect you to do more than one thing, make sure that you are completely clear about the few, vital things you can do.
Get SMART about it
Your annual objectives should always follow the SMART acronym. This means that your objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. It’s vital that you are completely confident that every goal or target meets these definitions. If your objectives aren’t SMART you are simply setting yourself up for failure. Remember that your people cannot focus on targets that aren’t specific. For example, ‘improving customer service’ sounds like a great annual objective, but what does that actually mean? If you can’t provide the detail, your goal is worthless, so get ruthless about the targets you set.
Look for opportunities to share goals
Your peers are likely to have some great ideas, and if you actively collaborate, your objectives will make much more sense. For example, a sales team may want to acquire a number of new customers, but if the fulfillment team doesn’t have the same target, the process of sending out new goods could fail. Shared objectives between teams are extremely effective at delivering robust improvements because both teams are trying to do the same thing, albeit in different ways. Make sure you review all your targets with other managers, before you make a final decision.
Most modern businesses ask their team managers to set targets and objectives, but many teams still end up with poor annual goals. It’s important to remember that it takes time to learn how to set strong objectives, so all managers must continue to check and refine the goals they set.
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