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Starting the New Year with a Bunch of New Business Goals? Proceed with caution.

January 2nd, 2014

Who in business doesn’t appreciate the value of goals?

Clear goals help align you and your employees’ efforts. They drive performance. They motivate.

But could they also have downsides? Consider this unsettling quote from a recent post:

“Researchers from four top business schools have shown that goals often do more harm than good. Worse, they can cause real damage to organizations and individuals using them.”

Clearly, this goes against much of what we’ve been taught as managers. But there’s logic behind the argument. While structured goals obviously give you and your employees something to work toward, setting unrealistic – or too many – goals can be counterproductive, producing bad “side effects” like:

  • neglecting one aspect of your business, as a result of over-focusing on another;
  • unethical employee behavior, in an attempt to achieve goals;
  • and corrosion of organizational culture, fueled by intense internal competition.

Should you eliminate goals completely?

Of course not. Just proceed with caution when creating them. As you move through 2014, use these common-sense tips from TRUE Group to set goals that support, rather than undermine, success:

  • Use the SMART goal model. Use a collaborative process to create goals, and make sure they’re SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
  • Formalize and share goals. Write your goals down – and make sure everyone in your company understands them. The simple act of committing goals to paper helps reinforce accountability and improve compliance.
  • Align individual goals with your company’s big picture. Each person should understand the direction of your business and know how his job supports your organization’s overall success. To achieve goal alignment, start by clearly communicating your strategic business objectives across the entire company. Then, develop “cascading goals” for each level within your organization. The actions of entry or base level employees should support the goals of supervisors; supervisors’ goals should promote managers’ success; managers’ goals should reinforce both senior executives’ and company-wide objectives.
  • Track your progress. Once you set them, revisit your goals frequently to monitor progress toward attaining them. Periodically reassess goals, to make sure they’re still relevant and determine if corrective action is required to keep things on track. Your company is not static; your goals shouldn’t be, either.
  • Watch out for unscrupulous behavior. If goals are a stretch, certain employees may be tempted to engage in unethical behavior to achieve them. Be aware of the potential dysfunctional behavior that may ensue – so you can nip problems in the bud.

What goals have you set for yourself, your team or your company this year? We’d like to know – and we’d like to help you achieve them. Contact TRUE Group to find out how our South Carolina staffing and recruiting services could help you accomplish more in 2014.

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