If you’ve come across this article, you probably already know the importance of setting objectives for yourself and your team.
However, if you’re like most people, you are aware that most objectives that you set are simply forgotten after a couple of weeks.
Objectives are incredibly important to the success of any organisation, and for good reason.
Objectives provide direction – whether for individuals, teams, or an entire organisation. Why does your company exist if not to meet some sort of goal? Do you want to make sales, increase revenues, or build your client list.
Setting objectives leads to proper planning which leads to meeting goals and setting new ones. It sounds silly, but if you have a goal you should strive to meet it. If you meet your goals you should be prepared to move on to the next one.
Objectives tend to motivate people to work harder. They’re even better at motivating people if they know they will be rewarded for meeting their goals.
Setting objectives will allow you and your organisation to evaluate your processes. If you set a goal that you are unable to meet you’ll need to find out why it was unattainable. This process will give you the knowledge necessary to make changes to your processes and procedures.
Why is it that some of us can set and actually realise effective objectives, while others tend to waste time setting objectives that are never met?
The difference lies in setting realistic and measurable objectives, and following through to make sure that they are met.
Use the following steps to get back on track with checking things off of your to-do list.
Set Realistic Objectives
Objectives are akin to New Year’s resolutions, often set but rarely carried out.
That is due to the fact that most of us create unrealistic goals for ourselves which we simply don’t have the willpower or the resources to carry out.
Whether it is learning a new software system in a matter of days before a big interview or getting a promotion within the next calendar year, many of the goals we set for ourselves are out of our control or are simply not achievable in the amount of time we have.
The trick to achieving goals is to set realistic ones in the first place.
Consider how much time you have, your past history with the creating similar goals and the probability of you being able to carry out the task to make sure there is a point to commit to an objective at all.
Break Up Objectives Into Small Parts
Individuals tend to set large goals that take a long time to come to fruition.
However, most of us like instant gratification, and after a while, we get demotivated and give up altogether.
A better strategy to actually stay on top of your objectives is breaking them up into smaller parts.
If you have a large report to do at work, break it up into daily tasks that you can stay on top of.
This can include creating an outline, gathering materials, finding images, and devoting a day to writing each chapter of the report.
When we are able to cross a task off of our to-do list, even if that task is minuscule, we provide ourselves with the motivation to keep going and achieve the final result.
Modify Objectives When Needed
There are many factors we cannot control in our daily lives, and it is important to re-evaluate goals to make sure that they are still relevant and we still have the time and resources to achieve them.
Just because you haven’t completed the goal in the desired time, doesn’t mean you should abandon it; instead you need to give yourself more time to complete it.
If you notice that you’re having a hard time completing an objective, consider what is restricting you from doing so.
Is it due to a lack of free time, expertise or simply desire?
What can you change in your objective to make it easier for you to make it happen?
The more questions you ask yourself and the more effort you put into modifying goals to keep them current and relevant, the more chances you’ll give yourself to turn them into reality.
A quick story to illustrate the power of setting objectives…
On a recent management course, one of our trainers was discussing the idea of setting goals with some delegates. He said to the first volunteer, “Stand here and your task is to throw as many screwed-up pieces of paper as you can into that waste bin a few feet away”.
The volunteer stood up and, rather embarrassingly, screwed a few pieces of paper up and threw them in the bin. After one minute, the trainer asked “Had enough?”, to which the delegate said “Yes thanks!” and gratefully returned to his chair.
The delegate had managed to screw-up and bin 12 pieces of paper.
A second volunteer was requested. This manager, a lady, was given her task.“Your task is to throw as many pieces of screwed-up paper as possible into this bin in one minute, and your target to beat is 12” The lady went about the task with enthusiasm and scored 15.
The trainer asked for a third volunteer. Addressing this person, he said, “OK, you’ve seen what the others achieved. Do you think you can beat them in one minute?”
“No problem!” said the third volunteer, and he began when the trainer started the stopwatch. He managed 21 pieces in the same time as the other two.
The first volunteer objected to this. “That’s not fair…you didn’t give ME those rules!”
The second volunteer also voiced her opinion. “Yes, it isn’t fair, because you didn’t give ME any choices, other than to beat one target.”
The trainer asked the third volunteer for his opinion.
“It was very fair”, he said. “I knew what I had to do and by when, and I got a say in what target I thought I could meet. I saw what was possible, set myself a higher target and knew that I could achieve it. And I did!”
The Moral To The Story?
In objective setting, we very often just set the target and expect team members to achieve it. But how many of us are asked to achieve a task without being involved in the big picture, or fully understanding ‘the rules’?
What might our team be capable of if they were allowed to set targets they thought were stretching and achievable? How much more ownership would they experience if they were involved in the goal-setting up front?
If you’re a manager and want to improve your skills further or if you’re looking to become a manager in the future then sign up to our FREE Online Management Course. Delivered through email over a 2 week period you will learn what it takes to be an effective manager and inspirational leader.
Sean McPheat Managing Director
Originally published: 15 May, 2020