Setting Objectives at Work

April 3, 2015

Setting targets at work

Managers and leaders at all levels are responsible for establishing targets, whether for a whole organization or a single employee.

These targets will need to be both ambitious and realistic, capable of inspiring new achievements without intimidating and disengaging team members.

Setting objectives at work should involve a careful consideration of a range of factors, from integration with organizational goals, to tangibility.

The master plan

The purpose of objectives is to drive forward success across the organization as a whole. Therefore, your targets should be set in line with organizational goals.

Before you set any targets, identify the objectives of the company, and consider the purpose of your team within the bigger picture. Then, draw up targets that contribute towards that wider purpose.

Persuasive language

As a leader, you need to do more than simply communicate targets to your team. You’re also responsible for influencing employees’ attitudes towards their objectives. The way you present targets should make team members ‘want’ to deliver them, not just to ‘have to’.

Often, leaders ‘bribe’ people into achieving goals through motivators like bonuses. Consider whether you want your team to be driven by base instincts like greed, or whether they can be inspired by the chance to be part of a truly worthwhile achievement.

The Big Questions

Let’s take a look at the three main questions that arise when setting objectives at work.

1. What should be measured?

The balanced scorecard, first developed by Kaplan and Norton in the 1980s and 90s, and usually represented by a four box model, is still by far the most commonly used tool for setting objectives at work.

Measuring targets across four main areas was a breakthrough for organizations that had previously focused on financial and operational/output measures to the exclusion of all else.

It is more important than ever, though, to consider a range of other perspectives, such as external stakeholders, employee engagement, and partnerships.

2. What targets should be set?

Targets should directly reflect the things that need to be measured. Make sure you’re addressing the whole range of responsibilities across the team, and avoid setting a bunch of targets that only address one aspect.

3. How high should the bar be set?

It’s essential to make sure that expectations are set at the right level. Setting objectives too low results in no motivation to succeed. On the other hand, overly high demands can intimidate team members, and cause them to give up quickly.

You should aim for a stretching set of targets that require the team to achieve peak performance in all the ways that matter. Ideally, the targets will also require them to work together to deliver the result and to support each other to move the organization forwards.

For a comprehensive look at setting objectives at work, attend the webinar on 21st April, at 2pm. Find out more and sign up here.

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