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How to Set Goals That Align with Your Employee’s Passions

In a perfect world, every employee would be completely self-motivated, able to set their own goals, and able to achieve their highest potential without any outside guidance. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in.

In our current workplace culture, employees generally both want and need their bosses to be more akin to coaches – helping them figure out the best path forward, offering feedback, and teaching new skills along the way. With that employee-boss dynamic in mind, one of the most important roles of the modern leader is helping their team set effective workplace goals. Easier said than done.

Under the Ken Blanchard model, in goal setting, employees and leaders should always aim for SMART goals:

  • Specific – It should be clear when the goal has been achieved.
  • Motivational – The goal should push the employee ahead, setting a bar that they want to reach. More on that below…
  • Attainable – The goal should be aspirational but not impossible.
  • Relevant – In a work setting, the goal should be relevant both to the employee and to the company.
  • Trackable – It should be possible to track progress over the life of the goal.

Let’s focus for a moment on the “M” – motivational – because this is an element of goal setting that many leaders tend to overlook. If a goal fits within an employee’s job description, helps the company, and can be tracked, that should be enough, right? Not quite.

For a goal to be truly motivational, it needs to fall in line on some level with the passions of the employee. Just because a particular employee might be good at a certain job doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get any value from the task, and if the employee gets no value from what they’re doing, why would they feel motivated to do that job well? Even in cases where the goal is in line with the company’s greater mission, which the employee believes in, a goal that’s not personally motivating can be extremely difficult to execute well.

Does that mean that every employee needs to love every one of their assignments? Of course not. But when it comes to big, long-term, or career-path-defining goals, the motivation aspect absolutely needs to be in place.

In our experience, there are seven passions that are likely to drive employee satisfaction. Which of these passions is most important to your employee is information you can gain through assessments. Having that information will help you craft goals alongside your employees that are not just relevant to the company, but also relevant to that individual’s core principles and drivers. The seven core passions are:

  • Aesthetic – a drive for harmony or beauty.
  • Economic – a drive for financial gain.
  • Individualistic – a drive to stand out from the crowd.
  • Power – a drive for influence and standing.
  • Altruistic – a drive to help others.
  • Regulatory – a drive to establish order or structure.
  • Theoretical – a drive for knowledge or understanding.

Your employees may not always be able to identify what motivates them, which is why assessments can be so helpful. When both you and your employee understand what they really truly want out of their job and your workplace, the process of identifying SMART goals becomes much easier.

About Joy Ruhmann
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