Five Key Characteristics of Goals That Motivate

As a leader, you want to set clear and achievable benchmarks for your team. Consider these five key characteristics to create goals that motivate!

1.     Clarity

Clear goals are SMART:

Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  When a goal is clear and specific, people know what needs to be done and what is expected. Included in clarity is communication—make sure to leave the door open if questions arrive throughout the process of completing the goal. Making goals clear is not just for the employee—it also helps you, the leader, to know what to expect and when to expect it.

2.     Proper Assessment of Task Complexity

For goals that are highly complex, we have to be sure to give people sufficient time to meet the goal and provide the time to practice or learn the skills that are necessary for success.  The purpose of goal setting is successful achievement, so you have to be careful that the conditions around the goal support that success rather than stifle it. Be sure to give an employee access to any information or individuals that can help them along the way.

3.     Feedback

Incorporating feedback into the goal setting process allows for expectations to be clarified, difficulty to be adjusted, and recognition given.  In particular when a goal is long-term in nature, it’s important to set benchmarks that help people gauge their success and see their achievement. It is also helpful if you can create an open feedback line to ensure communication about the given task does not go stale. If there is a question or misunderstanding, you want it to be addressed!

4.     Commitment

For goal setting to be effective, the goals need to be agreed upon and understood.  While this doesn’t mean you negotiate every goal with every employee, there is value in engaging the people working towards the goal in crafting it.  When we help to create the stretch goal, we are more connected to the challenge, and more willing to commit.  The harder the goal, the more commitment is needed.

5.     Challenge

We are often motivated by achievement, so we’ll judge a goal by how difficult we perceive it to be.  If it is too easy, we won’t give it as much attention and energy.  However, it demands us to stretch ourselves in order to achieve the recognition of a job well done, we are more likely to be motivated to excel. Challenging ourselves and others is one of the key ways to encourage growth and set employees up for leadership in the future.

Creating goals that motivate (rather than stifle or exhaust) can be difficult, especially when the tasks at hand are complex or in uncharted territory. By considering the five key characteristics of goals that motivate, you can create an environment of enthusiasm and set your team up for success.


About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is a bestselling author, leadership consultant, and creator of Q Cards. He is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company, and the author of the international bestseller, Courage Goes to Work. His workshops have been taught to thousands of executives in eleven countries on five continents. For more than two decades, Bill has designed and delivered programs for emerging and experienced leaders from such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, eBay, UBS Bank, Spanx, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to founding Giant Leap Consulting, Bill served as an executive in Accenture’s change management and human performance practice, eventually becoming the $35 billion company’s first full-time internal executive coach.

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