Top 3 Tips to Set Goals which Motivate

A Fresh Look at Setting your Team’s Work Objectives

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

In this first offering of 2014, I am returning to the topic of work objectives as many of you are likely to be or soon will be engaged objectivein considering your objectives at work for 2014 and then discussing them with your line manager. For those among you familiar with these Career Tips, you may recall that I have previously written about the subject of setting work goals.

Beyond the well-known techniques to set objectives – such as the SMART acronym – and then to stay on track, achieving goals – whether at work or at home – is all about motivation. The motivation to get started but, even more importantly, to keep moving until the objective is achieved, despite setbacks and obstacles along the way. As such, as self-empowered individuals but alsomotivation as line managers responsible for delivery, we need to identify goals which motivate because those will stand the most chance of being achieved.

So what motivates people to keep working on their objectives? There is a lot of literature out there regarding the roots and drivers of sustained motivation and goal achievement but let me select three for the purpose of this article. There are autonomy, competence and satisfaction.

1. Autonomy supports self-drive

Line managers, let me encourage you to promote an environment in your teams which fosters autonomy. Autonomy has been Cubes - 267 - AUTONOMYshown to be related to staff well-being, job satisfaction and employee engagement. More generally, people who feel they benefit from autonomy in their lives behave in ways which shown them to be self-driven, without the need for third parties to intervene or encourage them. Fostering autonomy may feel challenging for line managers who have a natural tendency to exert a high level of control.

But autonomy is not isolation. Line managers fostering autonomy do not leave staff to their own devices. Autonomy-promoting line managers are supportive of their staff.

Having said all this, a goal-setting process which encourages autonomy needs to:
– take the team member’s perspective into account,
– provide (reasonable) choice for the team member,
– foster the team member taking the initiative and acting independently,
– offer support, in the form of regular feedback in an informational manner, and
– provide a meaningful rationale around proposed work objectives.

2. A sense of purpose sustains motivation

Again, some of you will have read it before: the more personally-resonant a goal, the more motivating it will be to the individual. A personally-resonant goal is bigger than just the task itself but rather engages the person’s needs and interests on several levels. A personally-resonant goal activates our internal drives. In contrast, many of our goals are the products of external demands: this is why they are so hard to work on.

If this sounds a bit fluffy, let’s take a very trivial example to illustrate the point. I am asked by my boss to make 10 copies of a memo that he wants to share with others at a meeting. We can readily see that this task does not involve a lot of autonomy but purposehow about purpose? If I simply focus on the photocopying job, then I am just responding to an external demand, my boss’s request. But if I feel I was entrusted with an important last minute mission which is crucial to how the meeting will go, I might feel special that I was asked. Seeing the copying job from a broader angle may possibly allow me to connect to an emotional reward.

To practically foster a sense of purpose in each of their team members, line managers might seek to understand whether the person is of an eagerness or of a vigilance disposition. For example, consider the following goal to complete a written report. A line manager speaking to someone of an eagerness disposition might say “Please capture as many details as possible to make the report vivid and interesting”. Conversely, the line manager could say “Avoid forgetting detail and be careful not to make the report bland and boring” to someone whom he knows has more of a vigilance approach. Do you see the slight difference?

3. Autonomy and purpose yield satisfaction

Our discussion of autonomy and purpose shows the importance of the individual at the centre of an effective goal-setting satisfactionprocess. Involving folks through autonomy and factoring their needs and interests as well as their eagerness vs. vigilance orientation to create a sense of purpose makes satisfaction possible. Of course, job satisfaction, that feeling of accomplishment linked to a job well done. But, at a deeper level, satisfaction comes from a deeper sense of engagement and participation. Beyond job satisfaction shimmers the possibility of a connection with others in the company, a feeling of belonging.

So there you have it, three possibly unusual tips for line managers to consider when planning and then discussing this year’s work objectives with their team members. What are your tips for objective-setting?

If this article resonated with you, don’t hesitate to contact me for a chat where we would explore what is going on for you and what you would like to have happen. To contact me, click here.

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