Getting It Done: Effective Goal Setting in the Workplace

From writing a daily or weekly to-do list to committing to a marathon training schedule, most of us regularly set goals in our life.  But personally and professionally, less of us have found the right ingredients to achieve those goals.  The runner gets tired of waking up at 5 am and a to-do list scribbled on a post-it note is easy to crumble up and throw away.  Determining our goals and effectively seeing them through is an acquired skill, and when goal-setting is successfully integrated into a work environment the company and employees can all benefit.


Clearly defined work goals can give meaning to the routine of quarterly feedback, deadlines, and reports.  As an owner or manager the best thing you can do is set your own goals for your company and team and empower your employees to do the same.  This enables each employee, team, and department to drive their own success within a company.

But where are they driving to?  What’s at the end of the journey?  Certainly there needs to be smaller, attainable goals along the way, but there also needs to be The Goal.  Here at CareerPlug we utilize Franklin Covey’s idea of a Wildly Important Goal or WIG from their 4DX methodology.  This is a long-term, reach goal that every other goal is helping you to achieve.  WIG’s operate through all levels of the organization, but the company WIG generally informs all those below it.  For example, a company WIG might be to bring in $1 billion of revenue and a department goal might be to bring in a portion of that or to implement a new system that attracts new business.

As an individual your goal might be slightly different, perhaps to become the head of your department.  To achieve that, you might make smaller goals to increase your skill set, innovate within your current position, and network with higher level employees.  To accomplish those you’d need even small milestones and on and on.  The point is to create small attainable successes as you work on a long-term goal that might span over years.  The starting point is to identify what it is you’re really after.

Or you could just take Calvin's philosophy...
Or you could just take Calvin’s philosophy…

But as anyone who’s ever made a New Year’s Resolution knows, goals are easily unraveled.  New priorities come up, you can’t find the time to work towards your goal, or you don’t even know where to start.   To see something through, you need a plan, you need supporters, and you need to want it.

The Plan: Clearly define each level of your goals from your WIG to your weekly commitments.  For reference, the SMARTER Method is probably the most popular.  This method defined the parameters for writing a goal: it needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely, Extending capabilities, and Rewarding. Keep your goals visible and spend time evaluating your progress each week.

The Supporters: Whether you’re the CEO or an entry level employee you need people to have your back and encourage you to succeed.  Tell others about your goals.  As a company the goals should be well communicated through all levels of the organization and as a team member you should let your colleagues and managers in on your goals.  Not only will they hold you accountable, but they can act as great resources along the way.

Wanting It:  Have you ever heard about someone who climbed a mountain, wrote a book, or started a business who didn’t really reallywant to?  If you are not invested in your goals, you’ll probably care very little if they are ever accomplished.  As a company, the challenge is to inspire that same dedication you have to your WIG to all levels of your business.  If you work for a company who is not communicative, you can always set goals within your department or team.  Company culture plays a huge role in successful goal setting and completion, but even if you’re not happy with your company’s objectives or values, you can still focus on your own professional success.


It’s important to remember that goals can change.  Industries shift, new priorities arise, or goals just don’t get met on time.  In this case, flexibility is your best weapon.  And your small goals along the way will show you just how much you have accomplished, even if you fall short of a stretch goal.  It’s always better to fail at attaining an ambitious WIG than to never reach beyond your comfort zone.

As a final note, it’s good to acknowledge intrinsic motivation as well.  This goal-setting method may not work for you, but you have the equal potential to be successful. To that, this blog post from educator Edna Sackson is good food for thought.

Do you set goals at your workplace?  What are the best methods you’ve found for following through?


For more articles and tips follow us on Twitter @CareerPlug.


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