A Publication of WTVP

At the end of one year and the beginning of another, most organizations assess how well they did in the previous year and then make plans for the new one. Budgets are set, sales targets are created, projects are described, and then… everything goes on as usual.

People struggle to set goals because we often associate them with very specific, deadline-driven results that sometimes don’t make sense for the job. We’ve all used the S.M.A.R.T.-goal writing template for so long that we find employees start creating artificial goals that are really just task lists. (S.M.A.R.T. means that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.)

Wouldn’t it be more exciting to paint pictures of success instead? Rather than asking your employees to write three to five goals, ask them to finish the following sentence: “I will be successful in my job when…” Wouldn’t it be a great conversation if employees and their leaders agreed on what success looks like—and how it will be measured? I like to use the phrase “Painting Success Pictures.”

Every position in an organization exists for a reason. The work performed by each employee contributes to the overall success of the company in some manner. So how can that be summarized in a meaningful way so employees know when they’ve done a good job, a poor job or an outstanding job? Why does it matter if they do a great job?

I had the pleasure of working with a municipal park district in the process of moving its performance management program to include “success-focused goals.” The employees were somewhat doubtful and frustrated at the beginning of the process. However, by the time we finished, they all realized that each one of them makes a very meaningful contribution to the success of their organization, and each found methods of measuring their hard work in ways they had never before considered. Here’s an example:

One of the supervisors is in charge of the campgrounds maintained by the park district. When asked to think of a “successful outcome,” he mentioned factors like “a 10-percent increase in visitors.” When I asked if he controls whether people visit the campgrounds, he responded no. When I asked why someone would think the campgrounds were well-managed, he commented that they are clean, well-maintained and safe; therefore, the public would be satisfied with their camping experience. I asked how he would know this is true. He mentioned that inspection reports and maintenance logs document his completed tasks, but then he suddenly realized that he also needs to track camper satisfaction. As a result, here is his “Success Picture” for his performance year:

I will be successful in my role when the campgrounds are clean, facilities are well-maintained, public safety threats are eliminated, and the public is happy with their camping experience. This is measured by:

Chances are good that he eventually would have arrived at the bullet-point statements as goals, but the “Success Picture” indicates that these are measures, not goals in and of themselves. By defining what the overall desired outcome is for the role, we open up the possibility that the outcome can be achieved in new and creative ways, versus predetermined tasks and job responsibilities.

“Success Pictures” appeal to our need for purpose and meaning. If I know that my boss will say I’ve done a great job, I’ll be more motivated to find ways to make that happen. Too often, lists of goals are merely tasks that fail to tie an employee to the big picture of the organization—and fail to inspire creativity and innovation. Start painting “Success Pictures,” and you’ll generate a lot more excitement than simply writing a handful of goals. iBi

Marvis Meyers is vice president of training and organization development for AAIM Employers’ Association.