4 Pitfalls to Avoid When Setting Goals

Posted on January 10, 2013.

It’s the beginning of the year and setting goals has to be on your to-do list.  Even if you work for a large corporation that just force-feeds goals at a division or team level, you still have the job of allocating it out to everyone. Goal setting is actually not an art, it’s a science, and you need to take the time to do it right.

 I use to work with managers who were just too lazy to set goals correctly and would allocate their goals evenly across the team.  Why is this wrong and what’s a better strategy?

1.    You have to take into account experience levels.  Do you think it’s fair to allocate the same goal to a 15-year veteran and someone right out of college? They maybe doing the same job, but let’s face it, they aren’t making the same salary, so why should they have the same goal. You have to take into account skills and knowledge when setting goals.

2.    Past success should not dictate future goals.  I use to receive my biggest objections when I’d load up someone with a really high goal because they had a great previous year.  As I said in #1, you should take into account experience, but if you give someone a disproportionally high goal because they had one good year, you’ve actually created a disincentive to do well.

3.    Don’t put too much weight on pipeline or backlog.  When you base too much of the goal on what you think is in the bag, you create professional sandbaggers. People are afraid to tell you what they have going on. Plus you risk relying too much of your success on something that may or may not come to fruition.

4.    Avoid the excuses. Inevitably, when people know you’re working on goals, they start giving you the reasons they’re going to have a challenging year. I’ve heard it all, from, “I don’t have the support I need to be successful” to “ You’ve given mean nothing but crap to try to build on.”  Some of it may be true, and you certainly can consider circumstances, but when all is said and done, everyone has something.

Setting goals is one of the most important jobs you do as a manager. Making sure they are measurable, fair and achievable is not easy.  For more tips on goal setting, check out some of the other goal-setting blogs on the site.