Reasonable Yet Challenging

Shawnee Love   •  
March 31, 2016

There has been a lot of research done on the motivational aspects of goals and expectations in a workplace.  No one is surprised to discover that most people flounder, “fail to launch” or go off the wrong track if they don’t know what is expected of them.  These failures are compounded in teams where multiple people are struggling with what is needed, expected and/or desired by their boss

The solution, while fairly simple in theory, requires some heavy lifting because you have to know where you are going before you can direct your staff.  Once you have your direction firmed up, then you have to share it with your people (clearly, concisely, consistently and continually).  This sharing needs to cover three bases:

  1. The Big Picture, i.e., where the organization is going and why (which creates purpose),
  2. How each person can contribute, aka, goals and expectations, and
  3. A wrap up of how the individual “parts” will come together to achieve the big picture.

Goal and expectation setting are key to culture building because people want and need to know their work is important and they are personally contributing to the greater endeavour.  In those goals, you are providing the road map for each person and in doing so are also increasing their own “drive” to get there.

Establishing individual goals and expectations cascades from your strategy, but from the perspective of culture building and individual employee motivation, the best types of goals are:Possible

  • Difficult, and
  • Contain the risk of failure while remaining possible.

A goal can’t be impossible because believing something is impossible is a complete de-motivator.  I recently heard the story of the first man to run the 4 minute mile, Roger Bannister in 1954.  Prior to that, there was no one on record as having done it.  Once Roger completed it and proved it was possible, within 2 months John Landy had done it.  According to Wikipedia the 4 minute mile is now the standard for all male middle distance runners.

It is amazing what can be accomplished when you get your people laser focused on an outcome which they believe is possible if they work really hard.  Culturally speaking, getting people working towards the same goals but playing different roles in accomplishing them also leads to greater appreciation amongst team members because they come to value the important contributions their colleagues are making.  Generally speaking, mutual appreciation and respect are fundamental to “good” cultures.