The thing about personal/professional development goals is this: If they’re too easy, people get bored by them; If they’re too difficult, people get unnerved by them.
Either extreme falls short of its intended aim. So the key in establishing quality goals is to have them sufficiently s-t-r-e-t-c-h the person, but not overwhelm them.
Here are three ways to do that with your staff:
- Trial-and-Error – Try a few things, see what works, what doesn’t, and modify the goals accordingly over time. It helps to realize that you don’t have to get it exactly right the first time; the best learning (and striving) is always iterative.
- Report Back – The idea here is for them to create their own goals and then tell you about them. Then build some stretches around what you hear. Just keep an eye out for whatever bias your staffer brings to the process, though – some people will purposefully UNDER-estimate what they can achieve (sandbagging) ; others will OVERstate it (wishful thinking). Your job is to find the sweet spot.
- Collaborate – Engage WITH others on random assignments to: (a) see how they perform; and then (b) create their s-t-r-e-t-c-h goals WITH them. Using the best of ways 1 and 2, identify meaningful, relevant, and sufficiently challenging goals that build their skills and are aligned with their interests.
Whatever way you choose, be sure to remind people that you are noticing whether they’re working on their goals (or not) … and watching their progress (or not).
In other words, help them keep their s-t-r-e-t-c-h goals top-of-mind so they actually DO stretch.
After all, the things we pay attention to are typically the things that actually get done.