How Does Goal Setting Improve Motivation

“The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach” – Benjamin E. Mays

Increasing and maintaining a steady level of motivation in the long term can prove to be difficult task for many business owners, potentially negatively affecting employee performance. An effective way to encourage higher performance in your team is motivating your employees through goal setting, taking them through an effective goal setting process in order to encouraged increased motivation across the board.

So, what type of motivation is goal setting and how can it improve your organisation’s performance across the board?

How Does goal setting improve motivation?

Getting your employees to establish specific and challenging goals is an extremely effective way to encourage higher performance. If your team have defined goals that they consistently work towards on a daily basis, it will motivate them to take one small step every single day to move towards achieving that goal.

As a leader, motivating employees through goal setting and ensuring that your team are setting realistic, smart goals is key to action planning for you organisations future. Instead of having your team set a vague goal that they’re unlikely to end up achieving, make sure that you communicate to your team what is goal setting and how to do it well. It’s also important to ensure your team starts setting outcome goals, which focuses on the end-point of an event (achieving a target, winning a new client, etc.).

You should also look over the goal setting process once a year to ensure that your team is setting stretch goals as well as time bound goals that can be easily measured at the end of the year. You can also allocate time during the goal setting process for team members to set personal goals. This can be beneficial as personal goals are also often related to work goals.

Business leaders that have studied different theories of motivation and have tried and tested multiple strategies within their organisations can tell you that the motivational benefits of goal setting heavily outweigh the slight time commitment it requires to do so. They can also tell you that motivating employees through goal setting is a more efficient way to achieve the more difficult goals in the workplace, as once your team start achieving smaller goals, it will give them the confidence to have a crack the more challenging ones.

If we shy away from creating new goals, however, we risk becoming apathetic about our situation. Rather than holding off on reimagining our goals, current uncertainty calls for new, more adaptive ways of planning our goals.

Our new reality is asking for flexible thinking, focused equally on our ability to live every day to its fullest and our larger goals that can bring us success both in our personal and professional lives.

Joining Everyday Success with Long-Term Vision

While not everyone requires goals for motivation, goals are quite necessary for creating direction and purpose in our lives. As Lewis Carol’s Cheshire Cat told Alice, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” 

Decisions about how we spend our time and structure our days are impossible without some knowledge of what we are working towards. Our ability to find meaning and create energy every day relies on this sense of direction.

The challenge with planning goals in the age of COVID-19 is the looming uncertainty that threatens to make mincemeat of our dreams. Planning beyond a weekly or even monthly horizon seems futile. This doesn’t mean dreaming of a post-COVID world is futile. When coronavirus subsides (and it will), those individuals who found a reason to persist and improve despite uncertainty will be stronger and more prepared for the world ahead. Remember, you are stronger than you think!

The key is connecting your everyday actions with a set of flexible long-term goals. If your goal is to retire in 15 years, your financial behaviour today must still follow a set of spending and saving habits. While some investments may sour due to economic impacts, a belief in the ultimate outcome will still inform your actions today.

Creating plans for achieving your goals that are flexible to changing circumstances improves your resiliency and likelihood of finding success. If your goal is health or fitness related, local restrictions may derail your plan to go to the gym or work with a personal trainer. If your plan focused however on a daily exercise goal, you may be able to adapt with in-home workouts or virtual training.

What emerges is two basic planning habits.

  1. The first is the ability to make progress on your goals each and every day, regardless of circumstance.
  2. The second is to look forward and make plans that adapt to obstacles before they derail your progress. 

Just because the world 6 months to a year from now is highly unpredictable does not mean that you can’t plan progress to your goals and bring purpose to every day. 

Solution – The Two Workstreams of Adaptive Business Planning

While we’ve written extensively on strategic planning in the previous article before, we want to emphasise the importance of flexible, iterative planning. For some time now, we have focused on the quarterly ‘STOPPING’ and coming up for air to look at what happened over the past 12 weeks and where we need to go for the following 12 weeks – this process becomes especially important with the unpredictability of COVID-19 disruption.

So how can we adapt this process further? We can support the above 90 day focus, by scheduling continuous evaluation of goals by breaking plans into 30 and 60 day segments, leading to the 90 day view which can ensure our strategy responds to the situation on the ground.

In a new brief from Bain & Company titled How to Breathe New Life into Strategy, Partners Herman Spruit and James Dixon layout two distinct agendas for the planning process: delivery and development. It’s right on the money!

The delivery agenda centres an organization to continue to serve customers and fulfill promises to stakeholders every day. It focuses on empowering teams to execute clearly defined processes. When surrounded by unpredictability, continuing to deliver services as promised is crucial to maintaining trust with suppliers. This agenda ensures issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently as they arise, freeing leaders to focus on adapting to longer-term strategy.

The development agenda addresses the more complicated task of adapting business offerings for an unpredictable “new normal”. Rather than reacting to the problems of the day, this workstream focuses on solving the problems of tomorrow, avoiding potential problems before they affect the bottom line. 

These functions work in tandem to steer the organization forward. The delivery team hands off crucial, real-time information to the development team. In return, the development team helps the delivery agenda adapt proactively to avoid potential obstacles or accelerate opportunities.

With these agendas in place, Bain describes, “Strategic decisions quickly and directly gain traction through resource allocation and performance management processes, ensuring everyone—from the front line to leaders/owners/ investors – all are on the same page.”

Habits for Life – Your New High-Performance Planning

These new ways of developing and executing goals may be new for many individuals and businesses. The time and energy spent on adapting these habits will pay massive dividends in the long run. 

While the shock of recent events may be demoralizing, there is cause for optimism. As we make progress every day to our ultimate goals, we drive a positive mindset for change in ourselves and those around us. With the right planning mindset, anything is achievable. It’s funny, I think we all know this – we just need to act as if it so.

If you’re looking for help with getting started, we have supported High Performance Planning programs for individuals and teams that focus on setting up these habits – we know them intimately, we use them ourselves! You need only message me.

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