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Setting clear, meaningful performance goals

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Are your people putting their heart into their work? If not, there's a good chance you can improve their productivity and motivation by setting and reinforcing meaningful performance goals. Having good goals in place for your employees can also allow you to be a smart manager and face less stress every day.

Here are some guidelines that can help:

Establish goals in a face-to-face meeting. Work out a set of goals for each person. Remember that most people do best when they're working toward three or four goals, and when they've had a hand in setting the goals themselves.

Be sure the goals are measurable and written down. This makes it easy for people to tell how they're doing. Performance improvement (or the lack of it) becomes obvious, and disagreement about performance assessments virtually disappears. Writing the goals down gives them more importance and formalizes your agreement with each employee.

State the goals in specific terms. Whenever possible, define each goal as a certain quantity of work to be performed to a certain quality standard within a certain time frame. For example, "Within the next three months, Nadia Francis will process 30 claims a day with an error rate of less than 3 percent."

Suit goals to the individual. Some persons work better with "stretch" goals that are set almost out of reach. Others like to play it safe, setting low-level goals and exceeding them. Though each goal should be realistic, neither too high nor too low, it pays to make allowances to your people's personalities and set goals at the end of the range where they function best.

Adjust goals that turn out to be unrealistic. Unattainable goals can be worse than having no goals at all. They can make employees give up or become cynical about your performance management process. If conditions change and priorities must be rearranged, or if people over- or underestimate their ability, renegotiate the goals you've set.

Bottom-Line Idea 

When you suspect a productive person is looking for a new job, it's a good idea to spend more time than usual talking with her. Make clear your appreciation for past contributions, of course, but also offer the information and guidance she needs to perform closer to her full potential. If you feel it's appropriate, you can specifically ask if there's a work-related problem you can help remedy.

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