I don’t know about you, but once I set a goal I’m pretty much done with it. I feel that I’ve set a direction for my team and now it’s my job as a manager to help the team accomplish the goal that has been set. However, I’m also willing to admit that I don’t always achieve all of my goals. Most of my goals get set at the beginning of the year, and it turns out that a year is a really long time. A great deal can change and those changes can have a big impact on my ability to achieve my goals. There is the distinct possibility that I may have been going at this goal thing all wrong.
How We Use Goals Today
As managers, we realize that most companies create yearly plans. However, sometimes the plan you created for the year goes awry (the recent pandemic is an extreme example of this). Or perhaps the plan you created needs to change based on new information (something happens in your market, a competitor makes a move, etc.). No matter what the reason, there’s a great quote about hiring that says, “Hire slow, fire fast.” Your changing plans should follow the same general idea: if you’re going to pivot because of changes, think hard about how and why. Once you’ve done this and once you make a decision, don’t do it gradually. Do it fast.
Managers need to understand that as they move forward during the year, things can change. For things that can be measured, we need to reflect on our key operational KPIs. We will often start out with very clear goals. But as you began to work through the year, you can start to realize many of the nuances within these goals needed to be shifted or made more specific which by definition changes the goal. So, as you get clearer about what you “actually” want, you may need to change your team’s goals in the middle of the year.
Why Make Changes To Your Goals
I think that we can all agree that the longer you go without fixing this problem, the more the problem is going to compound. Remember the great business quote, “What gets measured gets managed,” by Peter Drucker. It turns out that this is only true if you’re measuring the right thing to begin with. If it turns out that you’re measuring the wrong thing, then no matter how well you manage it, it won’t move the needle. If you realize that this is what you are currently doing, then you need to change your focus. Anytime a manager realizes that you are focusing on the wrong thing, however big or small, it’s worth asking the question, “If we go on doing this, what’s going to happen?” We need to understand that six months or even a year spent measuring the wrong things inside the business means you lose time that can’t be recouped.
You need to ask yourself if your goals and/or action steps aren’t clear. Having a clear North Star for your goals is only beneficial if people understand how to move toward it. If you start to realize the plan you created for your team members isn’t being acted on because the team doesn’t have actionable ways of getting there, you either need to a) figure out how to create actionable steps forward or b) change the goal. An example of this would be if you make your number one goal for the year, “Forge a more real relationships with customers,” and nobody internally has any real measurable way of achieving that goal, how will the team know if and when they are successful? The answer is that they won’t. What this means for you as a manager is that you need to change the goal to something more specific.
Is it possible that teams (and team members) have opposing goals? Anytime you have two (or more) parts of an organization rowing in opposite directions, you probably have a problem. When you decide to make changes to your goals halfway through the year, you will need to start by first getting everyone on your leadership team onboard. Then, you need to present the new plan to your entire company. After that all the other managers within the company need to follow up with their own teams, cascading the message throughout the organization. When you see that your teammates are often referencing back to the goals is when you know you’ve truly aligned your company.
What All Of This Means For You
As a manger you know that you have things that you need to accomplish. The way that you keep track of what you want to get done is by creating goals. If you are like most of us, you use the start of the new year to lay out what goals you would like to accomplish this year. What we need to realize is that a year is actually a fairly long time. A lot can change during the course of a year. If you don’t change your goals during the year you may end the year with goals that have become no longer achievable. What should a manager do?
When we are thinking about changing one of the goals that we are currently working towards, we need to think about it carefully. If we do decide to change it, then we need to move quickly and make the change. During the course of the year, our goals may not change, but the things that the goals are based on may change. If this happens, then perhaps our goals should change. If you let things continue for too long, then your goals may become unobtainable. Over time what you want to accomplish with your goals may become unclear. If your team and other teams have opposing goals, then you’ll never be able to achieve them. You need to be willing to make changes to your goals when required to do so.
Goals are definitely good things. They allow us to lay out a plan for the year and communicate it clearly to our team. However, we need to realize that goals are based on how things currently are. Because things can change, it is possible that our goals need to change also. As a manger it is your responsibility to detect when a goal has changed and then take steps to modify the goal. If you can keep your goals aligned with what you need to accomplish, your team will be successful.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
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Question For You: How many goals do you think a manager should be in charge of?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Good news: the pandemic is (mostly) over. What this means for many managers is that we are all going to be returning to the office soon. Our teams are going to be coming back with us. This is going to bring up a new set of issues that managers are going to have to get good at dealing with. The old way of being a manager may be gone for good. Do you have what it is going to take in order to be a new manager?