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Settings goals for the year always seems like a painful experience! “How do I know what I’ll be doing in 6 months time!!” “What’s the point…I have work I need to get on with…writing this pointless list is distracting me!” And that’s usually myself! Only kidding…but I did think like that and I know many people still do. It is time consuming and sometimes a painful process, but there is much to be gained from setting goals which make it a rewarding progress. If we are personally trying to better ourselves then evaluating what we want to achieve in a year can help to set the focus.

As a leader, you have to sets goals for yourself while also guiding the team with theirs. It can be daunting…there is no easy road to do this properly, it takes time and thought. Each company has their own performance process, but I hope my thoughts can help in yours. First we need to starting thinking…

About yourself:

  • what do you want to achieve this year?
  • do you want to build more on any achievements from last year?
  • do you want to go for a promotion? even change jobs?
  • are there new technologies you want to learn?
  • do any soft skills need improving?

About your team(s):

  • is there anything the team is missing or needs improving that you could help with?
  • are there processes in the team that you need to understand more e.g. Continuous Delivery?
  • could there be more lightning talks or other activities to encourage team building?
  • are there any frustrations in the team that changes could resolve?

About your company:

  • is the company direction changing in anyway?
  • what are your organisation’s key drivers for this year?
  • what are the core values for your company?

When you start to think in the different areas, from personal development to company strategy, there are usually numerous ideas that can turn into goals. Brainstorming can be an good way to develop these ideas. Don’t set any restrictions when thinking, just capture any thoughts while you think about goals, even seemingly ridiculous thoughts can turn into rational goals.

I’ve noticed peoples goals have a tendency to be quite similar, this is why I encourage my team to have goals that include the following areas:

Project Work – sometimes we know the projects we’ll be working, but reality is that plans change. The characteristics of a project will usually be the same though, so a goal or goals in apply to your part in the project(s). What does success of a project look like and what part do you play in the success?
Personal Development – career aspirations; any technologies or personal skills to learn/improve on; areas of improvement from last year; accountability and ownership over their work; grooming for the next promotion level
Customer – our users should always be in focus, what are we doing to specifically improve their experience; when making decisions/choices are we putting the customer first
Communication & Collaboration – this is always a key area for team success so having a goal can show its importance. This targets more than individual work, it ensures that working with the team and others teams is a priority, and decisions are made for the greater good
Innovation – encourage each person to bring in new ideas, whether it’s process, tools, or techniques; continuous improvement comes from teams being proactive and passionate about being better

Managers can also have a team people/goal:

People/Team – how can the team(s) and individuals improve; are we allowing them to feel empowered; are we being an obstacle for them in anyway (too many meetings!)

For leaders, it’s good to let each person come up with their list of goals first, this gives you a chance to see where their thinking and passion is. Do they really care about their future here or could they not careless – good clues for where each person is at! Then it’s a joint effort to shape the goals into an agreed final version, if the person is not interested then the struggle begins! Use the SMART criteria to help create goals that are easy to understand and realistic.

Then they need to be measurable! This is were metrics come in, they need to be put against each goal. Without metrics it would be impossible to genuinely evaluate whether a goal has been achieved; when the goals are reviewed throughout the year the metrics are used to measure progress. Having around 3 metrics for each goal is ideal, going back to any brainstorming you did can help. Metrics need to be specific e.g. “I will lead 4 lightning talks this year”, “I will write one blog a month on our tech blog”. We want to be challenged with each goal without making them impossible to achieve; allow time when putting metrics in to be sure they can be committed to.

There can be more to gain from this progress than just goal setting. Trust and respect are key ingredients for a team’s survival, use this opportunity to build on those and learn more about your teams through this process. You’ll discover individuals that are committed to the team and those who are struggling with motivation, either way that gives you something to work with for each person…remember your Team goal!

Don’t let the goals gather virtual dust for 10 months! Check-in with them often…something to cover in one-on-one’s if topics are run dry.

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