Do You Have Goals or Good Intentions?

December 13, 2011

It’s that time of the year when performance reviews and planning for the upcoming year are taking place, and this means that we need to talk about the goals we achieved this year (or failed to meet) and begin making commitments to new goals.

Goals are useful, they give us all something to strive for; a goal describes what we want to achieve in the future. Goals should challenge us, with the recognition that meeting these challenges won’t happen without effort on our part. Because goals are something that we agree to take on, they will not only be challenging, they will be motivating.

Goals energize us because they give us purpose; they provide meaning to what we’re doing now and they give us a sense of achievement and satisfaction when we accomplish a goal. They also inform us about how we should prioritize activities that we are performing today. If something isn’t moving us forward towards our goal, it should be a lower priority.

Have you ever had a conversation about your own performance goals that concludes something like this? “That sounds good, and I hope I have time to work on it.” If this sounds familiar, you aren’t making a commitment. You have good intentions.

Commitment is much stronger than intent, and goals that are actually committed to take more thought and work to reach an agreement on in the first place. There needs to be a discussion between the employee and manager about the actual goal, talking about why a particular goal is important to that employee and how it will help the employee grow through a combination of experience and learning.

There needs to be input from the employee about what interests them, what they want to go after. And the manager must discuss the needs of the organization and where he or she sees opportunities emerging down the road. There needs to be a negotiation that leads to a mutual agreement.

The employee and manager must also talk about when this goal will be met, the measures used, and the commitment that the both will have—the employee in pursuing the goal and the manager in supporting the employee in pursuit of the goal. A two-way commitment should exist.
  • As managers, we shouldn’t just assign performance expectations; we should talk about needs and expectations of the organization and have a robust dialog with our employees about those needs.

  • As employees we shouldn’t ask, “What do you expect of me?” We should remain observant about our organization and be active participants in those robust dialogs on how we can develop ourselves to improve our overall contribution.
How do you view your goals? Are they something that you intend to do, or are they actual commitments?