3 dangers from unclear goals

By Scot Herrick | Job Skills

May 23

SMART Goals are foundational for all clear and unambiguous goals. If constructed correctly — and if they represent your work and not something driven by corporate that doesn’t care about your work.

In other words, even though goals may look SMART, they are not. When your business goals are unclear, your chances of effective work — and a decent performance review — go down.

Yes, there are dangers.

You will work and never complete your goal

Unclear goals never allow you to get to “done.” There is always a “done, but…” still remaining. When you never get to completion, your danger is management thinking you never produce results for the team or the business. Sure, your management changed your work direction a hundred times during the course of the year, but when it comes to performance reviews, management gets steely eyed and looks what got done. And your stuff didn’t.

You won’t show business results

Business results are the gold coins of employment security. Without business results, you can’t show your ability to use your job skills to help management meet the company goals. In this age, business isn’t charitable about employing you; businesses will lay you off in a cold-blooded minute and have no qualms about doing so. Now, you can’t necessarily stop a layoff by producing results (except one), but those business results will stand out to the next hiring manager. Unless you never got results.

You will get dinged in your performance review

Unclear goals cost you money. They cost you the amount of a raise you get (if you get one at all) and the amount of bonus you get (if you get one at all). When a manager sits down to write a performance review, the goals come first. When your manager looks at your goal, you either met it or you didn’t. And if you met the goal, you either just met it or you exceeded it.

But unclear goals means your goal attainment score is now up to the manager instead of from reportable results. You can whine about how the goals weren’t updated, were left or how the business went in a different direction. But you also carry the fault here: you didn’t work with your manager to update the goals. Because of that, you abdicate your ability to have good influence on your performance review rating.

It’s just money.

Get clear goals

The thing is, it takes a lot of effort to get clear goals. It takes more effort to make sure that your goals stay current, that activities and results are documented, and your manager understands what you did. None of that guarantees a perfect rating, but at least you put your stuff in the right defensible position and helped you focus your work for the entire year.

What do you think? Are your goals up to date going into summer? Do you have results you can show on the progress you’ve made on your goals?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.