Last month I wrote about how there is a real gap between empirical research and academic studies into workplace practice and what actually is applied on the ground. I thought I would pick up on one topic which I think is getting a bad name: objective setting as part of performance management.
Ok, so I agree the name is unhelpful and that our choice of language is crucial. But if we look beyond this and to what we are trying to achieve, I really do believe there is some great research that we as practitioners should be paying attention to.
Performance management, objective setting and appraisals have all been given a good kicking in recent years and that has only added to the difficult role of managers in trying to engage people in new ways of working and improving on their performance and outcomes.
Yet, if we practitioners looked beyond the almost universal application of really poorly implemented management practice, we can find some really sound empirical evidence behind the concepts.
It may help to break them down.
Locke and Latham’s 1991 research showed that the setting of agreed, challenging goals facilitates pride in accomplishment. Indeed, in study after study over many years, involving different working environments and roles, those employees set challenging and specific goals performed better than those who were not. So, to my mind the issue is not that we should banish the performance management discussion but that we should return to the basics of what these studies really tell us. Spend more time discussing and agreeing clear goals! Be forward looking.
Ok I know this sounds tedious but as someone who practices positive psychology, this conversation can be so much more fun for everyone involved. One way we can do this is to…
* Pre-View not Re-view *
If we spend quality time discussing the vision for the year ahead (whether that is the team or the individual); the outcomes that we aspire to and the methods of getting there, this time will be well spent and will lead to success. This approach of visioning the future, of dreaming about success has also been proven to work and is a key method used by coaches.
So, next time you are meeting with your team members try these questions instead:
- What will success look like for the team / for you this year?
- What will you need to do to get there?
- What character strengths do you have which will help you be successful?
- What support might you need?
- How will you behave to ensure success?
- What does good look like?
- How will you (and others) know when you have got there?
- How will you measure your success?
If the manager takes the opportunity to act as a team coach and creates a conversational environment where the employee can dream a bright, exciting future, what’s not to like about goal setting?
The resulting conversation will easily elicit some good quality goals or objectives, just be sure to make them smart!
So next time you are getting ready for the dreaded annual discussion, why not decide to spend more time on the Pre-View rather than the Re-view?
Sally is a Business psychologist and Organisational Development Consultant