If you ever want to accomplish anything in life, you must have goals. Regardless of what it is, you must write them down, they must be SMART (I can’t even remember what that acronym stands for. Such a Mind-numbing Acts Required Today?) and you must have them in your sight at all times. Post-it, stick it, write it down. Sound familiar?
Corporations go through this exercise with their employees, setting deadlines for completion, and requiring the documentation in the system. HR people then review, mark up, and send back to employees with comments like, “these aren’t SMART enough” and make employees rewrite them. And we wonder why employees dislike HR or the goal-setting process.
Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of the goal-setting process. Early in my career, I had to review goals and provide feedback and I thought it was the silliest thing ever. It’s not a writing exercise, it’s an exercise to get people thinking about what they want to accomplish. It’s one of HR’s “flavor of the month” projects and we wear this process like a badge of honor. Who cares if they actually accomplish the goal or if there is any true ROI on the exercise. We do this because that’s what we think we are supposed to do.
I can’t think back in my 20 year career of one goal I set in the planning process that I truly accomplished. They were never meaningful nor did they increase my drive or engagement to do more. I was checking the box. I was soured on the whole goal-setting process. Until this year.
Here goes the broken record. I set a goal to run 1000 miles in 2017. Admittedly, I set this on January 1 during a long run because I must have read some motivational meme that told me I had to. It was New Year’s Day and I may have been a little hung over. Resolutions are cute and fun and as worthless as the goal setting process and I went along with it anyway. But something was different with this process for me. I realized that I was setting a goal based around something I truly enjoyed. I love running and the thought of getting the chance to spend more time doing it gave me the motivation to push forward.
I also realized that I would never be able to accomplish this goal if I didn’t break it down into manageable chunks. Seeing 1000 miles is a lot. After an 11 mile run, knowing I still had 989 miles to go zapped the spirits. But I decided to break it down into weekly sub-goals. 20 miles per week. Even that seemed tough for me given the amount of training I was doing at the time. I broke it down a little more: 10 miles on the weekend; 10 miles during the week day. That looks a lot more manageable.
I’m happy to report that I’m crushing this goal. I’m crushing it because I enjoy what I’m doing. And I’ve told anyone who will listen to me. My team and my bosses know about it and they provide the encouragement and space to help me. On work trips, they all know why I’m turning in a little early during the week.
During a recent conversation with my CHRO, he asked how I was progressing. I told him I was at almost 800 miles, (798.5 miles at this moment, to be exact). He did some quick math and said I could stop now, resume in mid-October, and still hit the goal. It never has crossed my mind to let up: 1. because I’m in the middle of half marathon training, and 2. I love running. If this was a project or goal that didn’t really excite me, I would have shut it down immediately.
Set goals that may go beyond what your role currently provides and then break them down into chunks that get you to that goal. Whenever I help someone train for a race, I tell them not to look at week 8 of the training plan because those 8-12 mile runs will look impossible. Look at week 2 and complete that 2 mile run. Then go to week 3. Before you know it, 8 miles will be a piece of cake.
Really think about what it is you want to accomplish and what you’re truly passionate about. If you want to get into shape and hate running, don’t sign up for a half marathon. Don’t change jobs or careers if your only motivation is to make more money.
Corporations miss the mark on this. We demand employees to complete the process, but we don’t ask what employees truly want to accomplish in their work and their life? What are their priorities, not only at their job, but also outside of work. We demand goals to be focused on a specific project or competency, yet we rarely take the time to ask if this is something our employees are even interested in. Taking an interest in what your employees value and enjoy can help create a more meaningful and productive work experience.