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5 Best Practices to Manage and Achieve Your Goals in 2016

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We recently published our special edition newsletter, “5 Assignments to Help Your Financial Advisory Firm Prepare for 2016.” While each exercise is important to plot the course for the future of your practice, I want to help you realize your goals by ensuring you employ and execute the best practices of goal management.

This scenario is all too familiar: goals are set, put aside, and not managed. This is a critical mistake if your firm is to achieve success and reach each goal in the New Year. The execution of each goal requires considerable thought along with strategies to manage each goal for your firm and team.

To attain your goals it’s important to have goal management practices in place. Without goal management, success is difficult to achieve.

 “A Goal Is A Dream With A Deadline.” – Napoleon Hill

What is Goal Management?
 

Effective goal management is an essential component for high-impact performance. Research tells us there is a direct link between effective goal management and exceptional organizational results.

Firms that adopt goal management best practices simply surpass those that don’t. This is because team members know and understand what is expected of them, are focused on the right tasks at the right time, are aligned in helping to achieve company goals, and are more engaged.

Team Engagement Levels Increase with Goal Management

Your employees will become more engaged when:

  • They understand their individual goals
  • Goals are relevant to their specific role in the firm
  • Goals are meaningful and contribute to company success
  • Leaders support them in achieving their goals
     

Research by Bersin by DeloitteWatson Wyatt, the Aberdeen Group, the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4CP), the Corporate Executive Board, and others identified best-practices to effectively manage goals and lead organizational performance. We’ve compiled the highlights of the research and completed research of our own to help you focus on five best practices in goal management and how to implement each strategy in your firm.

#1 – Set SMART Goals
 

There are a number of obstacles firms face related to goal setting. Many leaders and employees lack the skills required to set effective goals, establish low-quality goals, or even worse – set no goals. This results in the lack of clarity and alignment needed for high-performing firms.

The Aberdeen Group found, when companies have a process in place to ensure managers and employees have agreed to performance goals, it has a positive impact on talent management related activities such as organizational goal achievement, succession planning, employee performance, and employee engagement.

By utilizing the SMART goal model – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic, and time based – leaders have an effective means to evaluate employee performance, measure employee and organizational progress, provide feedback and coaching, and promote team and employee development.

Action Plan:

  • Leaders and team members work together to establish individual goals
  • Ensure organizational goals are clearly communicated to the entire team
  • Explain how success will be measured
  • Discuss how individual goals support the team and firm to achieve goals
     

Communication, clarity, and employee engagement are enhanced when you employ a collaborative goal setting approach.

#2 – Align Individual Goals with Firm Goals
 

Sixty-four percent of employees don’t understand their organization’s goals according to the Corporate Executive Board. Furthermore, many team members don’t understand how their individual work contributes to the firm’s success. The shortcoming can be attributed to the absence of alignment between individual employee goals and the firm’s strategic goals.

A study by Workforce Intelligence Institute and Success Factors, “How Smart HCM Drives Financial Performance,” found that employees who don’t understand the connection between their individual day-to-day efforts and the overall goals of the company feel confused in their role; resulting in low productivity levels and a lack of focus.

Individual goals that are directly tied to company goals provide a greater sense of teamwork and allow your firm to reach each goal faster. Goal alignment is one of the top strategies leveraged by high-performing teams.

When team members clearly understand and see how they make a significant contribution to the success of your firm, they will recognize and feel like an integral part of your organization. Generally, efficiency and productivity levels increase which lead to increased operating margins and profitability for your firm.

Action Plan:

  • Provide direct correlation to each employee between individual goals and your firm’s high-level goals and sub-goals
  • Create shared accountability and responsibility between team members by “cascading” goals from one employee to another whenever possible
  • Communicate clear expectations during each stage until the goal is completed
     

#3 – Engage Employees 
 

Research tells us that leadership support, regular updates on goal progress, and recognition of goal achievement is a best practice that leads to higher levels of employee engagement.

To engage your team you need to set them up to be successful. It sounds obvious but is often an overlooked and neglected tactic as demands on everyone’s time is drained. With a few simple steps you can help each team member commit to achieve each goal and provide high levels of employee engagement.

Action Plan:

Ensure you provide the following fundamentals to each employee for optimal engagement:

  • A good fit between their personality, skill set, and their individual goals
  • Clarity on how you expect them to complete each goal
  • Appropriate equipment and resources
  • Internal motivation
  • Training to help leverage strengths and minimize any deficiencies
     

#4 – Communicate Progress, Provide Feedback, and Measure What Matters
 

Truth be told, few things do more to stimulate employees than providing regular feedback surrounding their progress and performance.

To ensure this goal management practice doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with team members. By doing so, employees know that you care about their progress and not just the finished product. Also, use this time to review any performance issues, the addition of support or resources needed to complete the job, and any questions that arise.

Make certain to measure what matters. Many goals focus solely on financial metrics, however, most employees don’t connect with metrics such as net cash flow, return on investment, or net profit.

Include metrics that help your team feel engaged: improving client satisfaction, reducing response time on client inquires, new client acquisition, or developing a new product or service. Anything that ties directly to the tasks and activities people perform on a daily basis will help them relate to the metrics being measured.

 Action Plan:

Leaders in your firm are responsible to:

  • Provide strategies to achieve each goal through team collaboration
  • Provide feedback and recognition
  • Review progress and status updates with each team member
     

#5 – Review and Modify Goals Frequently
 

Most firms miss the mark for goal review and modification. Fifty-four percent of companies believe goal setting is merely a once or twice per year activity.¹ With that belief, outcomes are less than favorable and result in: goals that are off-target or insignificant, organizational misalignment, disengaged employees, lack of accountability, and lower business results.

According to Bersin by Deloitte, “Companies that have employees revise or review their goals quarterly or more frequently are 45% more likely to have above-average financial performance and 64% more likely to be effective at holding costs at or below level of competitors.”

Action Plan:

  • Review and modify goals at all levels on a regular basis
  • Maintain ongoing discussion regarding goals
  • Create a culture where frequent goal conversations is routine
     

A solid goal-management system is the key to achieving individual and team goals. Avoid falling short of reaching goals by implementing these five best practices. Each element is an important building block that you can put into your systems and processes right now. Each technique will move you one step forward in achieving something that could be undermining your overall performance and success.

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