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Be Smart About Goal Setting

Be Smart About Goal Setting

By Cheryl Stein
Monster Business Coach

Goal setting is a hot topic when you are a coach. A good part of our job is to help people figure out what they need to do and then help them figure out how they are going to do it.

Why do we need goals?

Having clear actionable goals makes everyone’s job easier. It lets people know what they should be doing and allows you to evaluate whether or not they have done it. Goals are the foundation of performance reviews. They give you a benchmark to measure how well your employees are doing.

Goal setting should be a group effort that starts at the top. Your company needs to have a clear strategy with goals of its own. These goals need to be aligned with the goals of the division. The goals of the division need to be aligned with the people who work in that division. Most importantly, an individual’s goals need to be aligned with their own capabilities and career aspirations. This is why proper goal setting is not exactly easy. Lack of alignment at any point can make goals unattainable.

Buyer Beware

People don’t always accomplish the goals that are set for them, or the goals that they set for themselves. Don’t assume it was because they didn’t want to. People generally want to fulfill their roles and want to feel like they have added something positive to their organization. If they can’t do what you think they should do, and what they said they would do, it usually doesn’t feel good for them. That is why it is important to reflect on past goals and investigate if there were any barriers to attaining them. It is also very important to give feedback so people can see things about how they are accomplishing their goals that they may not have noticed themselves.

A Delicate Balance

One of the hardest parts of goal setting is making sure the goals stretch the employee without stressing the employee. Goals that are not challenging enough can create a lack of motivation, as your employees get bored with the tasks that they are assigned to do. Conversely, goals that are too challenging make people feel frustrated that they just can’t succeed. Keep this in mind when helping your employees create their goals for the coming year.


It’s great to make the list, it’s also great to give a performance review but keeping on top of what your employees have set out to accomplish is essential to making sure you stay on track. That means having people revisit their goals more than once a year and making sure they are given proper feedback on how they are being perceived.

What’s on Your Dashboard?

Make sure that the goals that people set are ones that can be measured. When you measure things, they have a tendency to get done. The measurement should be clear and easy, not convoluted and incomprehensible.

Break Them Down

Having lofty goals is a wonderful thing but in order to keep from getting overwhelmed, it is important to break things down into manageable steps. Have people think about the action plan that will help them get to where they need to go.

Make Them Well Rounded

Creating goals shouldn’t just be about performance. Goal setting should also have an element of personal growth to them too. Make your employees stretch themselves by having them figure out how they want to be better in their work lives as leaders and as members of a team.

Make it A Good Thing

Just like anything else, a lot of how goal setting will be perceived by your employees will depend on how you present it, and how you use it. If goal setting is a positive thing in your organization, and everyone sees it as a chance to look ahead at what is possible for them, then setting goals will be a good thing.

Goals going well

Setting goals is all about creating winning conditions for your employees. Set your employees up for success not for failure. Goal setting time should also be a time to make sure that you are using your workers in the best possible way. Sometimes we try to put square pegs into round holes. Make sure everyone is being used to the best of their abilities.

Setting goals can be challenging because of all the things that can be done wrong, but in the end they help make work life so much better. Proper goals let everyone know what they need to be doing and where they need to be. Be SMART about goal setting. Make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. If you do, everyone will win.

Cheryl Stein is an Associate Certified Coach, a credential that is designated by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit Stein Consulting and Coaching.