Setting Goals at Work


It’s that time of year again. You know, when managers turn to thinking about goals and objectives for the next year, half or quarter. This can be unnerving time for many employees because, well, every company and manger seems to have a different approach and, if done incorrectly, one is suddenly held responsible for things over which they have no control and/or they may be incorrectly compensated down the line.

I certainly recommend reading up on corporate strategy and goal setting – especially if you plan to rise through the ranks or are running your own company. In the meantime, here are a few tips to getting through your company’s process with a bit more success:

  1. Keep  the company jargon front and center (15 min search on the company’s intranet). While there are tons of books on corporate strategy and Webster’s has well-documented definitions, it seems that everyone has their own terminology. It doesn’t matter what you call things as long as you’re on the same page – I’ve spent many endless, hair-pulling meetings with senior executives who talked  past each other because they refused to agree upon / commit to definitions. You can avoid such hurdles by getting a copy of your company definitions and examples for each term. Include this information at the top of any email or meeting agenda on goals. Anytime you’re in doubt or someone begins to employ their own terminology, point to these definitions. It may seem annoying, but getting paid incorrectly or missing impossible goals will irk you more.
  2. Draft what you’ll be doing over the next year / quarter and how it relates to the company (30-45 min to brainstorm, 15-30 min to organize). Before attempting to fill out your companies template, try connecting what you can and will do to what the company needs and wants to accomplish. I like to organize this in a spreadsheet with the columns noted below. While this can be time consuming, I find that juxtaposing the big picture next to details helps me prioritize and has helped my managers understand the activities and timelines to which I can commit. Review the document to make sure that you’ve only included activities for which you or your direct reports are responsible. Next, use the document as a basis for filling out the company template or having conversations with your manager.
    1. “Goals”: A broad outcome or mission of the company. Example: Be transparent with the target consumer
    2. “Strategies”: The way your company is trying to achieve the “goal”. Example: Have the top social media presence with target consumer
    3. “Objectives”: Measurable things the company plans to achieve in a set period of time to further the goal and strategy. Example: improve social media engagements with target consumers by X% over the next 12 months.
    4. “Deliverables”: Discrete projects / phases that will enable objectives (take months to quarters to achieve). Example: Start a social media department. Develop a social media campaign. Execute social media campaign.
    5. “Milestones”: Steps  required to accomplish the deliverables and the required time to accomplish each (takes weeks to months to achieve). Examples: Draft job description (1 week). Publicize posting (3 weeks). Interview (3 weeks). Hire (2 weeks). Train (2 weeks).
  3. Propose success measures that relate to your job (15 min – in conjunction with #4). You should only be rewarded or held responsible for things within your control. For instance, if one is in recruiting, they are not directly responsible for the total revenue and, therefore, revenue should not be a success measure. Instead, more appropriate measures include how quickly one fills roles and, down the line, how their recruits perform.
  4. Propose success measure that encourage the right behavior (15 min – in conjunction with #3). For example, measuring a doctor by % of surgeries with out complications may lead to a better patient experience that measuring the # of surgeries performed in a year.


“Soccer Action” by wrightbrosfan