Thoughts On Goal Setting

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In order to be exceptional at goal setting, it is first critical that you master the art of setting a vision. A vision answers the question: “Where are you going?” Whereas a mission statement answers the question: “Why do you show up?” Vision creation is the most commonly missed step in business.

How is it possible to generate goals without a vision? Imagine a college basketball coach that does not have a vision of cutting down the nets at the end of the year with his team. This vision drives the fundamental goals for the team to improve shot selection, shooting percentage and limiting turnovers. To generate your vision, start by answering: What do you want to see different in the world and at work?

As you proceed through the process of documenting goals, it is important to know the difference between a Learning Goal and a Performance Goal. According to researcher Fred Lunenburg, ‘A person with a Learning Goal orientation wants to master challenging situations’ whereas ‘A person with a Performance Goal orientation wants to look good in the eyes of others regularly.’ According to Lunenburg, those with Learning Goals typically reach their goals more frequently and avoid burnout because learning goals are typically intrinsically driven vs. being based on the approval of others.

Read the excerpt below from Fred Lunenberg:

Goals Must Be Difficult But Attainable

A goal that is too easily attained will not bring about the desired increments in performance. The key point is that a goal must be difficult as well as specific for it to raise performance. However, there is a limit to this effect.

Although organization members will work hard to reach challenging goals, they will only do so when the goals are within their capability. As goals become too difficult, performance suffers because organization members reject the goals as unreasonable and unattainable.

A major factor in attainability of a goal is self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997). This is an internal belief regarding one’s job-related capabilities and competencies. If employees have high self- efficacies, they will tend to set higher personal goals under the belief that they are attainable. The first key to successful goal setting is to build and reinforce employees’ self-efficacy.

Additionally, there has been much research around the topic of goal setting and potential consequences of poor goal setting – read the following excerpts from the Harvard Business Review:

Narrow Goals: With goals, people narrow their focus. This intense focus can blind people to other important issues needed to set effective goals.

Too Many Goals: Often when both quality goals and quantity goals are difficult, people sacrifice quality to meet quantity goals. Quantity goals are sometimes easier to obtain.

Unethical Behavior: Another serious way in which goal setting can damage organizations is by promoting unethical behavior. At the Sears’ the automotive unit, employees charged customers for unnecessary repairs to meet their specific challenging goals.

Too Challenging: The potential psychological consequences of goal failure can derail and demoralize employees. A tiered approach to goals may offer a solution to this challenge.

Questions For Reflection:

  1. What is your vision?
  2. What are some of your specific goals for 2016?
  3. How would you evaluate your goals? Too narrow, too many, too easy or too challenging?