You Cannot

If you are in a leadership position, you should be expected to improve your team. This is accomplished both as a group, and with one team member at a time. As leaders, we should ask ourselves daily:

• What have I done to improve the team today?
• Would the team have done as well without me today?

Improvement can begin with effective goal setting. To set a goal, you must analyze what activities impact the goal and follow up daily.

Setting Your Goals

Let’s define goal setting as directing an individual or group’s behavior. It should be a written statement with clearly described activities and a measurable result.

Are you a leader/manager? Do you set and review goals with your team daily? If not, why not? I’ve been involved in more corporate team and individual goal setting sessions than I want to remember. Many of them were a waste of time, and I knew they were—until I learned a few keys to successful goal setting.

Goal setting directs behavior, not results. Although the goal must focus on measurable objective criteria, activities achieve goals. Goals should include:
• Clearly defined objectives
• An activities plan

Over the years, when I’ve asked team members how they will hit their goals— I’ve often heard something like, I’ll do better,  I’ll work harder, or  I’ll do more. The smart-aleck in me always wants to ask why they weren’t already working harder, doing better, or doing more. DO NOT accept these non-specific generalized answers. Follow up with open-ended questions such as:
• What will you do better?
• How will you do it?
• When will you begin?
• How will you work harder?

Are SMART Goals Smart?

I believe what is missing from SMART goals, SMARTER goals, and many other goal formulas — is focus on activities. This lack of focus causes the goal setter to create goals without a plan to achieve them. Although degree of difficulty, time limits, measurability, conditions, objective criteria, etc., should be discussed—it will be difficult to achieve the goal without a clear plan of activities needed to reach the goal.

  • What activities should be repeated?
  • How can activities be improved?
  • What needs to be discontinued?
  • Where is help needed?
  • What activities need changed?
  • What activities should be renewed (successful activities previously performed)?

Work the Activities

When I was in a position of managing managers, I asked a young team leader how the previous month’s goals had progressed. In great detail, he enthusiastically showed me his team’s improvements. He explained the activities, which helped them improve — and since they were connected to financial incentives—he also disclosed their monetary gains. After congratulating him and the team, I asked about the current month’s goals (we were four or five days into the new month). The team leader had not “got to it” yet. My point is—don’t get away from activities that work. The most important activity may be defining, analyzing, and setting activities. When you set goals with activities, you can discuss activities every day—not only the results. Yes, we may learn from results, but they’re history, and we must know what activities caused the results if we wish to improve.