Setting clear and meaningful goals will ensure your employees are consistently targeting expected outcomes.
Chances are good you could probably run down your list of direct reports and provide me with a fairly detailed summary of what each person needs to accomplish by 5 p.m.
However, what if I asked what you wanted your staff to complete by the end of this week, month and year? Even better, what if I asked your staff? Would they have any idea? The challenge for business owners is to set clear and meaningful expectations and ensuring that your staff is consistently focused on your expected outcomes.
Many business owners feel that they need not worry about this, as their staff knows what is expected. Unfortunately, in most cases, while their staff members have a good understanding of the tactical duties they need to complete each day, they struggle answering the following questions:
— What is the direction of your department and the company?
— How do your daily duties affect this direction?
— In what areas do you excel, and how does this help the company reach its goals?
— In what areas do you need to improve, and how would this help the company reach its goals?
— What is your future within this company?
Many managers look at these questions and think, “Who cares if they understand the direction of the company, just get your work done!” This type of thinking is flawed for two reasons. First, if your staff is unable to answer the questions above, they will be less likely to effectively deal with challenges on their own. (Why is it important that I learn how to handle customer complaints? I’ll just let the boss deal with it.) Instead of focusing on how to grow the company, many managers spend too much time addressing routine problems (micromanaging).
Second, if your team isn’t clear how critical their efforts are to the success of the company, it’s a lot more difficult to get them to put in extra effort. Managers with this problem often find themselves begging their employees to stay until 5:30 p.m., skip lunch or come in for a couple of hours on a Saturday. Before you say, “They’ll come in on Saturday or I’ll fire them,” don’t forget how expensive it is to recruit and train new employees.
So, how do you address this challenge? I recommend the following steps:
1. Set clear, meaningful and simple goals. A powerful set of goals will include input from your entire team and will reflect their own personal and professional aspirations. Also, these goals must be so clear and simple that they can be memorized and fit on the back of a business card.
2. Create an individual “positional contract” with each employee. This process (and document) should focus on the following:
— detailed discussion of their regular duties;
— summary of how their position helps the company achieve its goals;
— list of expected skills to develop/improve and why this improvement will help the company achieve its goals; and
— discussion of the individual rewards for the company reaching its goals (incentive plan).
3. Reinforce, remind and review. The biggest mistake companies make is putting a bunch of meaningful expectations in a binder and then only referring to them once a year. You have to keep your staff focused and motivated. Zig Ziglar said it best: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing–that’s why we recommend it daily.” Here are a few quick tips for keeping everyone focused:
— Post your goals everywhere!
— Set aside time (at least monthly) with the individuals on your team to specifically address how their activity is affecting your goals.
— Provide your team with a progress update on a regular (at least monthly) basis and post this progress near your goals.