The Importance of Goals
by Dera DeRoche-Jolet

Companies have goals, but it’s management and employees that accomplish them. That’s because the company is made up of people and it’s those people that give it life and make it what it is. Without encouraging your employees in the right way of setting and achieving goals, the company will never reach its goals.

Too often, managers take for granted that employees know what the managers expect them to do – what is to be done, by whom and when. Job descriptions only tell employees what their duties are. It doesn’t describe standards or priorities.

For instance, the service department knows they are to follow up if a customer has a false alarm problem. However, without set goals, standards and priorities, questions arise. Should the service department follow up after the first false alarm or the second? If it’s the customer’s fault, how should they handle it? Should they follow up again in six months? What does the company specifically hope to accomplish by next year?

That’s why goals are so important. Goals express to employees what you expect of them. Goals tell them how their performance will be evaluated, and on what basis they will be rewarded. For managers, goals help them to know where people are investing their time and energies and how well they are doing.

Specifically, goals give order and structure in all of our lives. Goals allow us to measure our progress. We need to feel that we are not just standing still, but moving toward our destination and always getting closer.

When goals are in place, we feel that we have accomplished a purpose. They motivate us and give us the pride of achievement. When we don’t finish what we start, we feel frustrated. We just don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere.

If goals are so helpful, why do so many employees fail to reach their goals? Often, there are too many goals at one time with no priority. Employees have no idea where to begin and wind up feeling that none of the goals has any real importance. It won’t matter if any are accomplished today, tomorrow, next week or even next year.

Goals are sometimes set but not always followed up. If managers forget about some goals, employees are left with the impression that the manager wasn’t all that serious to begin with. Can you blame them? And, if the manager wasn’t serious about that particular goal, maybe he or she wasn’t so serious about the others.

Sometimes goals are followed up, but if they are not met, they are excused. When a goal is not reached, then you should find out why. Maybe the goals were not practical, or the job wasn’t done very well. Maybe there were outside forces that contributed to failure. Once you pinpoint the problem, then you can make changes to the way you’re trying to accomplish the goal.

Make sure your goals are realistic. A goal that is too low offers no challenge. A goal that is too high offers too much risk and little chance of attainment. When an employee believes a goal is out of reach, they may give up.

Another problem is not dividing bigger goals into smaller goals. If you only look at the bigger goals, you’ll never know how much you are progressing. With smaller goals you can make adjustments in the goal or performance at anytime. Also, achieving these smaller goals gives employees a sense that they are making headway and encourages them to complete what they started.

Too often, managers will impose certain goals that are important to them and everything else takes a back seat. When a manager starts a project that employees don’t regard as useful or even possible, it simply becomes a distraction. These goals do more to massage a manager’s ego than having a positive effect on the company. Most employees never accept these kinds of priorities, especially if they are imposed or seem illogical.

That’s why it’s important to show employees that a particular goal makes a contribution to the organization’s success. Then show employees your interest and support. The trick is to achieve a balance between giving employees total freedom and directing them every step of the way.

When goals are reached, don’t take all the credit yourself. You’ll build up resentment among employees and apart from not wanting to lose their jobs, employees will have no positive encouragement to meet goals.

Finally, show employees what they will get from meeting their goals. They should already know what the company would get. It’s vital that employees know their successful efforts will be recognized.