3 traps when setting your work goals for 2015

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jan 07

It seems you can’t get out of the year-end retrospective on last year — and all of the thousands of posts on New Year goals. Most of the posts, understandably, are about personal goals and resolutions. Some talk about the goals associated with their business and how they will serve their customers.

Few posts address creating and setting goals for the coming year for your work at the company you work for to make a living for you and your family.

Yet goals — and meeting them — are the key to having a successful performance review. Successful performance reviews result in salary increases, bonuses, and promotion opportunities. Important stuff. Unfortunately, we don’t spend a lot of time figuring out those goals. And that’s too bad since meeting our work goals has a significant effect on the rest of our lives.

Most companies use SMART goals — even if they say they don’t. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on how to define and develop SMART goals — that’s all built into my Killer SMART Goals for the Cubicle Warrior product.

I DO want to spend some time on the goal setting traps that are happening right now. If you’re not careful, the goals set now will kill your performance review at the end of the year, so it’s important to make sure you aren’t starting out of the gate in a losing position.

It’s a goal-setting trap when:

Your team goal dominates your individual goal

It’s a trap because team goals don’t measure your performance; it measures the team performance. I know, duh, right? But if you have a sucky team and you end up with a sucky goal achievement, it will pull your excellent work performance down from that Outstanding or Exceeds to Satisfactory. Costing you 2% in a salary raise and possibly an entire bonus.

The more your team goal (or goals) are used as a percentage of your review, the less control you have over impacting that performance.

Your measurement of the goal is set up incorrectly

It’s like the Geico commercial: your goals need to have accurate metrics to measure progress. “Everyone knows that.” But few really run the goal process through the paces to see how the metrics actually measure performance. Few question the system used to measure the progress, fewer still look at how the metric is defined to ensure it matches the work towards the goal, and even fewer still see that the measurement examines your performance and not a more general performance (a department’s performance, for example).

Like dealing with a generic or corporate database and then having to filter out many different components in an Excel spreadsheet to get to what is really your work. No one defines the filters. No one looks at the order of the filters to see the difference in the numbers. And no one agrees with the definitions and sets of filters to impose. So when you get to goal attainment, you might be thinking you’re doing great — while everyone else is wondering where you get your numbers.

If you don’t get agreement on how the goal will be measured for your work — and run that through the paces on how you think you should work to attain the goal – you’ll get bit in the end.

Your goal is only partially controllable by your work

Your work should produce a goal that is measuring your work. Too often, your goal is about not just your work and not about what you control.

You might be in accounts receivable and it might make sense to have a goal to reduce receivables from 120 days to 115 days. And that’s how the goal is stated. And the measurement is in a system and it measures the number of days of receivables out there.

But you are not responsible for ALL of the accounts receivable. Only a certain portion of them. Others are responsible for other portions of accounts receivable. And you have no control over their work.

This type of goal means it ends up being a team goal for all intents and purposes. And it doesn’t measure your work contribution to the goal. And you don’t have control over the output through your work.

Yet, this type of goal is commonplace in corporate world.

Don’t get trapped

It’s important to spend serious time examining your work goals when they are being formed. It will set the tone for the entire year — for your work, your manager discussions, and your reviews.

Goal setting time is Cubicle Warrior time.

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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.