My experience of strategy and goal setting, like most people in business, was informal and on-the-job as opposed to having professional training and coaching. It’s also one of those areas where I assumed common sense would be a good guide. To a certain extent that is true, but like most areas of knowledge, as you dig deeper you realise there’s more to it.
It turns out that having better goal setting and team management skills has mattered more during COVID than any other time in my career. The questions that I was faced with were numerous, but the main ones I can remember worrying me most were: how do you not just keep the wheels on, but help your company and team to grow, develop, and learn? How do you keep everyone connected when we are all fragmented? How do you keep your own sanity?
The basics – what are goals?
This sounds like the most ridiculous question, but it’s actually a big topic. A goal obviously describes some future state we want to achieve. There is a natural evolution in which tools and frameworks are used to set goals. This evolution starts at having metrics or KPIs, and moves through using SMART goals and ends up at what I use, which is OKRs, which stands for Objectives and Key Results . I would encourage you to read more about the differences between KPIs and OKRs, and of course SMART.
The key characteristics of all good goal setting, regardless of how you set goals that you’re not taught but need to pick-up and learn are:
Focus, Focus, Focus
Goals are not meant to cover everything you could do. They do however need to describe the very few things you absolutely need to achieve and are willing to commit to. What helps me is the idea that every goal I have dilutes effort and increases the likelihood of success.
A goal needs to excite the people you’re asking to achieve it so write a good one and include a ‘what’ and a ‘why’. Write goals that make you want to get up in the morning and work hard.
Measure What Matters
You can’t avoid metrics and measurement so become good at them. Embrace what they are there to do which is tell you the truth of how you’re performing and put a spotlight on where you need to improve.
You can set goals that you can achieve relatively easily, or create goals that force you to focus for a prolonged period of time, seek new skills, and new ways of working, and perhaps even create a eureka moment. The choices you make should be an easy one!
Make Failure Safe
The flipside of ambition is sometimes you will fail to hit the mark. What you will have done is learned though. Make particle success and what you have learned win.
Make Hard Conversations OK
Discussing what you need to focus on and put down always has the potential for conflict. In the same way working on day-to-day pritoties does. It needs to be safe to have these conversations and to come out of the other side better for it.
Using Goals To Create & Manage Change
I am no different to other managers I meet and other individuals that also want more from life on a personal level. I know that change and evolution is just part of life and it needs to be managed.
Whether personally where we might want to get a promotion, or pass an exam, or professionally where we might want to start a new company, grow our existing companies, or navigate the change and uncertainty that events like COVID has pushed at us, I have learned that upskilling in goal setting and agile ways of working helps.
I like most am now working mostly remotely and want my teams to thrive. To allow them to do this we set quarterly goals. This provides them with clear outcomes. We then meet at the beginning of the week to discuss priorities, new ideas and issues. Then we execute, collaborate and get *[email protected]$ done. This goes on week after week. This is managed in OKR software – ZOKRI, and we also use MS Teams and the Microsoft suite of tools.
At the end of the quarter we do a retrospective and discuss how we did, what went well, what needs improvement, and whether goals need to be continued or new ones set.
Goals are the north star for change, and when we’re not doing our everyday tasks we know what we need to be working towards. What we have is clarity and having worked in places where you flip-flop between goals based on what something thinks is the most important thing ‘today’, it’s a nice feeling and one that you can easily achieve because of the final hidden benefit of goal setting. They give you a toolkit for batting off conflicting requirements. When you’ve got a documented, shared and committed goal that you can point to, new ideas that bubble up can’t easily displace it. They naturally get added to a backlog.
Take a fresh look at goal setting
My advice is simple. If you want to manage change in a relatively stress free way and achieve more, you need to become good at goal setting and not just assume you know how to do it well. It is a skill as are the related skills that can be learned that help you work towards achieving goals like agile working.
Colette Easton is the Chief Revenue Office of the digital marketing agency – Yard, and a passionate believer in empowering people to achieve amazing things.