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Do’s and Don’ts for Setting Performance Goals


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Written by: Jennifer Specter

It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about the New Year and what we want to accomplish. Setting performance goals is an important part of this planning process and below are some do’s and don’ts to help you and your employees set goals for the upcoming year.


  • Do share your firm goals with employees so they are able to set individual goals that align with the overall firm goals. This helps employees direct their efforts where they can have the most impact  on the firm’s success.
  • Do collaborate with each employee in setting their individual goals. Engaging employees in the goal setting process creates buy-in to the goals and aligns your employees with firm-wide initiatives and targets.
  • Do set realistic goals otherwise you and your employees are setting yourselves up for failure and no one will bother to work towards achieving those goals.


  • Don’t set vague or ambiguous goals like “increase revenue” or “manage projects”. Unclear goals can leave you and your employees disappointed. Goals are clear when both the manager and the employee understand the same end results.
  • Don’t set too many goals. Although that sounds counter-intuitive, having too many goals makes it unlikely they will be achieved because your employees will be stretched too thinly. Consider selecting the major goals that will give the greatest return for the efforts. We recommend no more than 5 goals at any one time.
  • Don’t overanalyze the goals. Getting bogged down by the ‘what if’s’ of creating goals can lead to paralysis. No matter how long you plan or how much you research, it’s impossible to account for all the possible scenarios. Carry out your due diligence, select the goals, work the plan, and adjust as needed.

Setting mutually agreeable goals with employees should be a positive process that allows you both to share aspirations and ideas for the future. Remember that performance goals should be based on the needs of the firm and are generated through discussion and ongoing dialogue with employees. If you skip or gloss over the dialogue, the process becomes less meaningful. And one last word of advice, don’t set your goals at the beginning of the year and then file them away until the end of the year. Check in with your employees on a regular basis throughout the year to see how things are progressing and make any adjustments that may be needed to keep things on track

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