Do you set goals for your team members? Do you help them set and reach their own objectives?
Regardless of your managerial level, you have a duty to help your team set and reach their own goals as well as contribute to the overall objectives of your organization. In When They Win, You Win, Russ Laraway outlines four tiers of managerial goals and shares two ways to measure your effectiveness.
Keep reading to learn how you can help your team set and reach goals that benefit the organization as a whole.
Laraway argues that the first area of focus for an effective manager is setting clear goals for your employees. Your workers should know exactly what’s expected of them and when. We’ll examine several tiers of goals that managers can set for their employees, and then we’ll explain how to evaluate your effectiveness in this area.
Laraway divides managerial goals into four tiers, starting with shorter-term goals and culminating in the company’s long-term goal. Each tier supports the one above it—short-term Tier 1 goals create progress toward Tier 2 goals, which in turn build toward Tier 3, all of which culminate in the company’s ultimate, long-term Tier 4 goal. In other words, every goal that employees work toward should ultimately contribute to that Tier 4 goal, and each employee should understand how their work supports that goal.
(Shortform note: Angela Duckworth (Grit) says that you can use short-term goals to discover long-term goals. Her method for doing so is simply to ask why you have goals that you do, starting with short-term (Tier 1) goals. For example, why does a news reporter have a short-term goal of writing a certain number of stories each week? Because the outlet needs to publish a certain number of stories. Why does the outlet need to publish? So that people can read those stories. Why does the company want people to read its stories? To keep people informed about important world events as they happen.)
Tier 1: Daily and Weekly Goals
The foundational tier of managerial goals is what Laraway calls priorities—what workers get done daily or weekly. For example, a manager at a health insurance company might set a daily or weekly goal for each worker to process a certain number of claims.
(Shortform note: A common mistake leaders and managers make when setting goals is assuming that people—including themselves—will be busy and productive the entire time they’re working. As a result, they plan more work for each day or week than can reasonably be accomplished, and they or others either fall behind or get stressed and exhausted as they struggle to keep up with their workloads. Some experts offer the following rule of thumb when setting priorities: Assign people (including yourself) around 80% of the workload they can theoretically handle. This approach leaves a comfortable buffer for errors, setbacks, and breaks.)
Tier 2: Monthly, Quarterly, or Yearly Goals
The second tier of managerial goals is what Laraway terms Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). This is what a person or team achieves in a somewhat longer timeframe: monthly, quarterly, or yearly. For many employees, an OKR may just be an extension of a daily or weekly goal. For instance, if their daily goal is to process a certain number of insurance claims, then their monthly goal might be to process that number of claims on average each day for a month.
Note that this tier of goal has two elements: OKRs comprise Objectives (what you want to achieve during this timeframe) and Key Results (how, specifically, you will achieve it). In other words, think of the results as smaller, measurable goals that build up to the larger objective. For example, maintaining an average number of claims processed each day might be an objective while the number of claims that employee processes each day is the key result.
Laraway adds that each objective at this level should connect to the company’s ultimate aspiration (why you’re doing it), which we’ll further discuss later. All of your workers should clearly understand how their work supports the company. For the claims processor from the previous examples, this might be as simple as understanding that their work supports the company’s mission of, say, helping people navigate the healthcare system.
Tier 3: Long-Term, Multiyear Goals
The third tier of managerial goals is what Laraway calls the company’s vision—the specific thing it’s trying to achieve. This is a major undertaking, often lasting for multiple years and requiring the entire company to work together. There might not be an obvious connection between an average employee’s day-to-day tasks and a company’s long-term goals—if that’s the case, then you should explain to your workers how and why their work is crucial in meeting those goals. In other words, explain to your employees exactly what you need them to do to support these long-term goals.
For example, The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit organization that aims to remove plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. One of the company’s multiyear goals or visions is to implement various plastic capture technologies in 1,000 rivers around the world. An employee whose job is, say, writing and sending newsletters to report on The Ocean Cleanup’s progress, might not see a direct connection between that task and the goal of implementing plastic capture technology. However, an effective manager could explain that regular newsletters are an important part of public relations, and are therefore crucial for getting donations so the company can keep removing plastic pollution.
Tier 4: The Company’s Ultimate Aspiration
Finally, the highest tier of managerial goals is the company’s ultimate aspiration, which Laraway calls its purpose or mission—in other words, the reason the company exists in the first place. Ideally, the company’s mission statement spells out this goal so that every employee knows what they’re ultimately working toward.
This is a goal that’s likely to take many years to reach, possibly decades. Continuing the previous example, The Ocean Cleanup’s ultimate aspiration is to remove 90% of plastic from the world’s oceans. The employee writing newsletters should understand that their work, though not directly related to removing plastic from the oceans, still supports the company’s ultimate aspiration.
Measuring Your Effectiveness
To see how well you’re doing at setting clear and reasonable goals as a manager, Laraway suggests sending an anonymous survey to your team. Ask your team members to rate you in the following goals-related areas.
(Shortform note: Some experts argue that despite the rapid growth of employee monitoring and data analysis tools, surveys remain one of the simplest and most effective ways to measure employee engagement. Surveys have other benefits as well: They give employees a chance to share their thoughts and feel like someone’s listening, and the questions you ask may prompt employees to think about their own behavior and performance. In other words, surveys don’t just measure engagement, they can actually help increase it.)
1) Communication. For example, ask: How clearly does your manager communicate with you? How well do you know what’s expected of you, and when it’s expected? How well does your manager explain changes in the company—what’s changing, why it’s changing, and how those changes will impact your job? How well do you understand how your work supports the company’s long-term or large-scale goals?
(Shortform note: Laraway gives clear and specific examples of how you can talk to your team, but remember that communication is a two-way street; make sure your workers know that they can also talk to you when needed. One simple way to do this is to have a fixed time each day or each week when you leave your office door open; let your team members know they’re welcome to stop by during that time for anything they need to talk about.)
2) Collaboration. For example, ask these questions: How closely does your manager work with you when setting individual and team goals? How well does your manager help you prioritize your tasks so you can achieve those goals?
(Shortform note: Although collaboration—helping your employees to set and achieve their goals—is a key part of management, it’s important not to come across as overbearing or intimidating. Make it clear that your aim is collaboration, not control or punishment. In other words, let your employees know that you’re only there to help. This is important because of the power dynamic between employees and their manager; it’s often nerve-wracking when “the boss” gets directly involved because it creates the feeling that someone made a serious mistake and is about to be punished, or that you don’t trust your team to accomplish their goals.)
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- Why managers are to blame for employees' lack of engagement
- How to improve your team's morale and performance
- Tools for gauging your effectiveness as a manager