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Effective Goal Setting Motivates Employees

Motivating Employees with Goals

We human beings are naturally goal setting all the time. “Today, I’m going to close two sales.” “This week, I’m going to go to three networking events.” We’re great at coming up with good ideas that will benefit ourselves.

What we’re really bad at is following through on our goal planning. That’s where a great manager can help.

In a recent podcast, Jim Clifton – co-author of It’s the Manager – discussed a massive Gallup survey which studied over 300,000 teams and found that only about 30% of employees are engaged at work in the US. That number falls to 15% when you look at workplaces around the world. In analyzing the data, Clifton found that the biggest factor in determining an organization’s long-term success was the quality of its managers.

But what does it mean for a manager to be high-quality? According to Clifton, many old-school managers cling to the mindset that the manager is the boss, which makes sense. It’s the paradigm that we all grew up on. But that way of thinking is beginning to shift, and managers who instead think of themselves as coaches are actually the managers who lead the most successful teams.

Bringing the conversation back to goals, a “boss” manager might expect their team members to generate their own goals and follow through without any need for support or input. The boss’s job is simply to oversee, to assign, and to hit deadlines.

But a “coach” manager is less focused on results and more focused on process and development. A coach doesn’t simply throw a player into a game and expect them to figure it out. A coach helps his or her players identify their strengths and vulnerabilities and gives them opportunities to practice new skills so that they can grow.

A coach also provides on-going, regular support. For a new player, that might mean close one-on-one attention, and for a more experienced player, it might mean helping them gain an advanced skill – or even helping them graduate to a higher-level team.

As we said at the start, humans are great at setting goals, but we’re not very good – at least not naturally – at setting goals that are SMART, nor are we naturally good at following through. With a coach to help us along, though, we suddenly have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who can help us work through road blocks, and someone who can hold us accountable.

Employee goal setting is motivating in and of itself because, by definition, goals are things that we want to achieve. So when a “coach” manager helps us set goals, enables us to achieve them, and then helps us set progressively larger goals, that cycle fosters growth, happiness, and engagement – which in turn creates greater success for the team and for the business.

About Joy Ruhmann
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