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Monitor those benchmarks

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

With 2017 upon us, you may consider setting ambitious goals for your team. But think twice before you announce bold targets for the year.

Maurice Schweitzer, a Wharton School of Business professor, finds that leaders who set goals for their employees are not necessarily motivating them in the right way. The key to success isn’t articulating the goal; instead, it’s tracking how people get there.

Leaders must scrutinize the actions and processes that employees take in pursuit of organizational objectives. If people race to attain a goal by cutting corners, it can lead to unintended consequences.

For example, a manager might say, “I need you to exceed $1 million in sales this year. How you get there is up to you.”

While individuals may welcome such a challenge—and appreciate a manager who does not micromanage them—there’s a larger downside. The message they hear from the top becomes, “Hit the goal I’ve given you. I don’t want to know how you get there. Just get there.”

Ideally, managers should follow up after they articulate a goal. By conferring with employees on how they conduct themselves and what processes they use, leaders gain insight into a staffer’s ethics and initiative.

A salesperson striving to attain goals at any cost might fudge the numbers. But if a manager shows interest in the salesperson’s tactics, it can lead to a more nuanced discussion of how to balance goal attainment with integrity every step of the way.

— Adapted from “A Wharton professor says this common management practice can have unintended consequences,” Shana Lebowitz, www.businessinsider.com.

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