Goal setting is a fundamental part of our personal and business lives. In a business sense, goal setting can be used to effectively motivate employees to achieve higher levels of performance than they otherwise would have achieved. However, when setting goals, it is critical to get the employee to embrace them and commit to achieving them. The best way to ensure that this happens is to set what can be termed good goals.As with all strategies, there are pros and cons associated with goal setting and they revolve around ensuring that the goal is set within certain good parameters.

Some common characteristics of good goals are that:

  • Simply structured goals tend to be more readily accepted.
  • Individual work goals set by worker or management are likely to increase individual performance.
  • Goals assist in focusing attention on the most important elements of the business or task role.

It is worth noting that motivation to achieve good goals can be just as critical as monetary incentives in stimulating productive work performance.

On the other hand, when goals are poorly structured the business could be exposed to the following risks:

  • Lower quality output if the goal is focused simply on producing quantity.
  • Overly ambitious goal setting can result in risky behaviours developing in efforts to achieve them.
  • Goals solely focused on individual results can lead to team structures breaking down and less overall cooperation.
  • Incentivised goals in particular can result in unethical behaviour such as misreporting and in some instances overcharging in order to achieve goals.

It is imperative that time is taken to structure goals so that they will deliver the positive motivational and performance benefits while mitigating the above risks.

Good goals can be generally measured against what is known as the SMART model. They will be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. When goals have these characteristics, they are much more likely to inspire and motivate staff to achieve.

  • A goal that is specific will be clear and concise. It will contain no ambiguity.
  • A goal that is measurable allows progress to be measured in real terms. Milestones can be set and performance relevant to the goal can be consistently monitored.
  • A goal that is achievable should be challenging but possible. Impossible goals may motivate for short periods, but when the initial enthusiasm evaporates and reality bites, the impossible goal will become a demotivator.
  • A goal that is relevant should be beneficial and align with other goals for the individual and business.
  • A time bound goal has an end date – it defines when the goal must be achieved.

When setting good goals, you should be able to measure them against the SMART criteria to determine if they are going to deliver the goods.

Of course, setting good goals is only half the battle. Employees need to be motivated and equipped to achieve the goal.

You can assist their endeavors by helping them to create workable action plans and goal journals that they own. As with the goal setting itself, ownership of the goal is the key to success.