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Management Training: Tips for Objective Setting

10 July 2013

Objective Setting forms a key part of the staff performance management process. Many people have come across the SMART objective setting model and can quote what it stands for. For the benefit of doubt, the most commonly used version is: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/ agreed
  • Realistic/ relevant
  • Time Bound

But how does this model work in practice and exactly why is it so important to set so called meaningful objectives anyway?

A useful way of measuring the importance of objective setting is to ask somebody in your team to write down what they believe their purpose is and what they believe they are being measured on in the workplace, without referring to a job description or role guide.  As a manager, write down what you believe their purpose and measurable objectives are and then simply compare notes.

How confident are you that your thoughts will be almost, if not entirely, identical? If it turns out that you are on the same thought process, consider why this is and what you have done to achieve this… and keep doing it!  The consequences will be that time and energy will be focused on the areas that are most important to the business, resulting in greater productivity, success and with it high morale.

The consequences of not having clarity on objective setting, is of course, the exact opposite. Some tips for improved objective setting include:

  • Always ask your direct report for their input into what they believe their objectives will be. This helps with obtaining buy in and gives you a guide to how well your reports understand what their priorities should be.

  • When setting an objective, avoid stock phrases such as “does that make sense?” or “Are you OK with that?” The only way you will truly know that somebody has understood the objective is if you ask them to tell you how they will go about achieving the objective. The onus is on them to clarify their understanding and talk you through their approach, enabling you to give positive reinforcement feedback and identify problems early on.

  • To ensure the objective is measurable, avoid phrases like “improve” or “be better at”. Improve or be better by how much exactly? A useful tip is to focus on the outcome as opposed to the input, e.g. Generate a minimum of £5,000 revenue in one month as opposed to making 50 sales calls in one month.

For more tips on objective setting, or to learn more about our objective setting training, please call us on 01295 675506 for a free consultation.

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