When it comes to growing strategically and developing an engaging culture, goal setting is a company’s lighthouse, directing the organization where it needs to go and keeping the destination in mind for everyone on board. When an organization has clarified its goals, and when teams understand how their own goals will help the organization achieve them, productivity and engagement both increase. Goal setting is at the heart of a healthy organizational culture.
Simply having goals isn’t enough; the goal-setting process must be strategic, well thought out and inclusive. Here are some tips on how goal setting can help your organization reach the shore.
Only 10 percent of adults have identified goals, and only 3 percent have written those goals down, so it’s likely that your employees will need some guidance when setting individual goals or working together to develop team or organizational goals. Using the SMART framework can help. SMART is an acronym representing five key characteristics of impactful goals: specificity, measurability, accountability, realism and having a timeline.
Goals must be specific in order for all parties to understand what they’re working toward, what roles they play and what action steps they need to take. Clearly defined goals help gain collective buy-in and eliminate confusion and uncertainty.
How will you assess where you are on the path toward reaching your goal? It’s important to know the answer to this question before you start on the path, because if there’s no way to measure success, you won’t know if you’ve achieved it. Once you’ve established your metrics, review goals daily and measure them at least monthly, if not weekly. Reassess goals quarterly to determine if you’re on track to meet them or if they should even still be your goals.
Each person and each department should set goals that support the overall organizational goals. There should be personal and organizational accountability for meeting those goals. If an organization doesn’t hold people accountable, then there’s no way to measure and assess the roles each department and each employee plays in achieving the organizational goal.
Cross-accountability – holding multiple people accountable for the same goal – allows for creativity to try out new ideas or solutions. Then, if something doesn’t work, the team can collaborate to understand why and make a plan to adjust moving forward.
If you determine there’s a lack of accountability, assess what’s missing. Was an action taken, but it didn’t work? Was a person or department meant to take an action, but didn’t? What adjustments do you need to make to ensure that next time, the results are different?
Goals must be achievable in order to obtain buy-in, and if even just a few people or one department doesn’t buy into a goal, it will undermine success. If people don’t think the organization can achieve its goal, they won’t work toward it.
To help make sure a goal is achievable, make goal setting a collaborative process. This collaboration will also have the benefit of increasing engagement; if everyone feels they are part of the goal-setting process, they will feel empowered. They’ll feel that their work directly contributes to the organization’s success.
While goals should be realistic, they should also be aspirational. A common mistake people and organizations make when setting goals is setting them too low out of fear they may not hit them. However, if a goal is too low, it won’t create change. Epic growth occurs when you think big, and thinking big takes the same energy as thinking small does. Achieving small goals doesn’t lead to significant change; setting big goals does. Ask everyone on the leadership team, “What’s possible?” Plan from there.
When does the organization, team or individual need to achieve the goal? Be specific to create a sense of urgency. Employees need to know when to take certain action steps in order to work efficiently and effectively toward a goal.
Beyond defining a SMART goal, it’s also critical to establish the “why” behind the goal. How does it impact the company and, more importantly, the people it serves? Does it make their lives better? Does it improve their skills? The “why” is the anchor that will keep employees engaged.
An organization that believes it can achieve its goals is an organization with endless possibilities. When people believe in something that is bigger than themselves, when they know they’re working toward an important goal, they think and act differently. They move faster. They’re willing to take risks and try new ideas. Goal setting creates a mindset that there isn’t anything a team can’t accomplish. When done right, setting goals creates a culture that supports creativity and innovation. It encourages employees to dream big and think outside the box. It turns clichés into reality.