Like developing healthy muscles for your body, setting effective goals doesn’t happen in a day—it takes hard work and time. At BetterWorks, we like to call this developing your “goal muscle.”
In the human body, healthy muscles are essential to staying fit. In enterprises, effective goals are essential to achieving alignment and operational excellence. That’s why I’m a big proponent of helping companies develop their goal muscle.
Many companies have a well-developed task muscle. Some businesses also have an efficient project muscle. But the key difference between these types of activity muscles and a goal muscle is why—essentially, the purpose of the work. With activities, employees are completing tasks but they may not know why they’re doing what they’re doing, or if those tasks are even important at all.
In contrast, goals focus employees on outcomes and help them understand the why behind the work they’re doing. Employees who understand why they are doing something and how it connects to larger objectives are more likely to focus on the right things and be more successful.
Here are five ways to build your company’s goal muscle:
- Create early wins
If you were opening a new gym, how would you attract and retain loyal customers? A path of low resistance would be to get customers who already value fitness and are eager to try your improved processes, trainers and equipment. As those customers succeed, you can show other target groups and individuals how your gym and your experts helped them make fitness a habit. Organizations can use the same approach to roll out or improve an existing goal-setting program.
Start with leaders and groups that already set goals. In my experience, teams that measure their work outputs in metrics (e.g., sales, marketing, customer support, and even human resources teams) are good first candidate groups for enterprise goal setting. Because these teams already work cross-functionally and think quantitatively, they will have an easier time setting milestones and goals than other teams, such as engineering, that have additional existing processes to accommodate.
- Educate employees about the importance of goals
I’ve rarely heard a personal trainer describe how to do an exercise without first citing why you’re supposed to do it. They explain how “just 30 minutes a day on the treadmill, walking at a steady rate, will improve your cardio, build your heart muscles.” Organizations that help employees understand the “why” motivate individuals to build their goal muscle for personal and professional development. They make sure their employees understand that effective goal setting drives results, focus, engagement and alignment across teams—in short, helping the entire team become more successful. Because employees understand how goals benefit the organization and their careers, they take the process and goal achievement seriously.
- Train on setting effective goals
Before undertaking any form of exercise, it’s important to understand appropriate form and technique, as well as how to correctly use equipment. This helps to ensure maximum results in minimum time.
At BetterWorks, we offer customized workshops for executives interested in advancing goal setting in their organizations. During these half-day sessions, BetterWorks Customer Success team members help executives understand what they are trying to achieve in a measurable way. Topics range from goals categories to understanding the difference between setting a goal and setting the right level of goals.
Similarly, organizations should take the time to educate everyone about the top company goals before training employees to set goals, then adapt, measure and assess their goals based on what the organization is trying to achieve. For example, a company that considers hiring staff to be a top goal may discover employee engagement is a more strategic goal, and adjust accordingly. Instead of hiring x number of employees, the company goal is modified to include the following results: x% higher retention rate and included in the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For edition.
- Develop an internal support system
Fitness instructors motivate individuals to make lifestyle changes those people couldn’t achieve by themselves. Goal coaches work in the same way. The good news is that you don’t have to hire goal coaches—they should be employees who lead by example. A successful goal-setting program can groom team members to share their expertise and encourage teammates. An effective technology should make this type of support easy.
The Customer Success team at BetterWorks has established the BetterWorks Goal Masters program to help teams better support their own company. We provide communication, planning and training templates that teams can leverage or customize as necessary. We established the Goal Masters program to give customers an internal, peer-to-peer support system. Goal Masters are members of a team that provide personalized instruction. Specially trained by our experts in advanced goals education, Goal Masters help teams build their goal muscle. Because Goal Masters understand Goal Science, they are empowered to help colleagues and managers set the kinds of goals that drive operational improvement. Instead of struggling with the process, employees can reach out to a trained and trusted colleague for help.
- Repeat the process
For goal setting particularly, perfection is the enemy of progress. Fitness is a lifetime goal. So is operational excellence. Both take time and ongoing adjustments—and neither requires perfection. Both are much more successful when you can apply focus and practice. For goal setting, enterprises should strive to complete quarterly repetitions with each “rep” consisting of a three-step process: creating goals, measuring progress and assessing results. With each repetition, your organization will be better aligned as a team and understand how well it is performing against goals.
Most of all, remember it takes time to develop a goal muscle—to build the habits required to set goals efficiently and effectively and to establish a culture of goal setting. If you’re focused on showing value early, achieving success and gaining support across teams, you’ll find that goals create and sustain momentum. Most importantly, you’ll get better and better at setting and achieving huge goals as an entire company.
If you’ve been developing your goal muscle, let us know below about lessons you’ve learned along the way!