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Goal Setting: Why you should focus on the journey, not the destination

Written by: Heather Pelletier
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What is the most important thing you can do to boost productivity? Set goals. Big and small ones.

What is the most important thing you can do to motivate your team? Personalized goals.

What is the most important thing you can do to avoid burnout? Connect goals to purpose.

What is the most important thing you can do to measure results? Track goals.

As we settle into a new reality of remote work—for many it’s a permanent change—it’s common to take a breath and focus on goal setting. A goal-setting process forces you to think about the journey (in other words, how you’re going to complete your tasks) instead of just the end destination. But what does this mean in today’s disrupted workplace?  Recent studies show us that goals are now more important than ever. 

Most companies already have measurable goals that you and your team are responsible for, such as sales quotas or key performance indicators (KPIs). For the purposes of this article, let’s assume you have good leadership and reasonable annual goals that don’t need a fundamental change. So that’s it! You know what you need to do so you put your head down and get to work. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The following step-by-step strategy on how to achieve goals and inspire others to do the same should get you started on a journey to your destination:

Step #1: Break it down

Take a strategic look at your annual goals and break them down into smaller goals in three ways:

  1. Behaviours: These could be soft skills like greater empathy for the customer, or systematic behaviours like consistently entering new customer contacts into the CRM.
  2. Activities: These are the specific tasks you know are needed to maintain consistent results such as number of customer phone calls or completing a training program about a new technology.
  3. Purpose: This is all about supporting your team’s larger 'why'.

Research proves that when people have a connection to their own purpose and their company's purpose, they are more engaged, more inspired, and less likely to suffer from burnout. For example, if your team is made up of technical service reps for a telecom company, attaching a purpose such as "connecting people in a virtual world" will amplify their results. 

The logic behind breaking down goals is creating more incremental lift in your team’s performance. You probably have a few high achievers who consistently produce results, but how much lift can you get from only 10-20%? By “moving the middle”, we design ways to achieve performance results for 60% of your team. The numbers don’t lie – this method proves successful over and over again.

Imagine you and your team need to climb a mountain with the option of following a carved-out switch-back path or a steep and treacherous vertical path. The switch-back has attainable slopes that make it easier for everyone to achieve. You are giving them the tools and the direction to get to the top of the mountain without expecting that everyone has the strength and determination to just climb straight up.  Not everyone will get there, but a much higher percentage will if you give them the option of the switch-back. 

Step #2: Personalize

Once you have a framework of smaller goals that lead to larger goals, plan one-on-one meetings with each team member and allow them to give their own input and choose their own goals. Trust the framework that you put together directs them towards a good decision.

In Behavioural Economics (BE) terms, this is called Choice Architecture; it involves a shortlist of choices that makes decision making easier and more likely to be made toward a desired effect. This one-on-one time is also important towards personalizing the employee's experience by empowering them to contribute to what they need to achieve success.

We also know from significant research that when people choose their own goal, they are more likely to achieve it. Lastly, we can look to other positive benefits of a personalized employee experience when considering the overall employee value proposition. Our recent study shows that the number one consideration in today’s workforce toward employee engagement is to “make it personal.”

Step #3: Inspire

We now have personalized and clearly communicated small goals that support your team members towards achieving larger goals. But how do you get people to take action? First, you have to inspire them, rather than force them. You want to dangle a carrot and not prod them with a stick.

At BI WORLDWIDE (BIW), this is the area where we provide tremendous value to our clients. We study what inspires people and provide our clients with custom solutions. We use two primary tactics:

  1. Engaging activities that incorporate games and enticing rewards: We use our robust online platforms designed to engage and inspire with features built in to maximize the human experience. We combine BE with awesome rewards. (Hint: it's not more cash.) Research proves people will work harder for luxury goods or experiences.
  2. Management recognition: We pair our contest platform with a recognition platform that empowers leaders to lead and ensures that people receive the array of benefits that frequent recognition provides. (Hint: we recommend personalized recognitions with creative e-cards along with a reward for maximum impact.)

Step #4: Use data as a management tool

You are well underway, your team is engaging and working hard towards a specific set of goals, and now you must lead them towards the finish line. Except you can’t rely on the management skills you developed in an office setting – many of which relied on intuition and facetime. How do you adapt?  

The answer lies in relying on new technologies that capture data and measure those against large and small goals. Great management also includes regular reporting and sharing progress with your team members plus personalized coaching plans. Don’t forget to measure yourself too! How well are your incentives working? Are you recognizing your team frequently? Are you putting extra care into onboarding? At BIW, we create maximum results by analyzing multiple fields of data to design targeted incentive programs. We capture additional data within our platforms and combine that data with yours to show results, show return on investment (ROI), and make suggestions moving forward. 


What have we learned? Goal setting is not just an afternoon at the beginning of a new fiscal year. It’s a systematic approach proven by science. Let’s elevate the role of goals to more than just a destination or even a road map. Let’s use them as the engine and make it an enjoyable ride along the way!

Heather Pelletier

Account Development Director, BI WORLDWIDE Canada

Heather Pelletier is an expert in employee engagement and incentive program design with over 15 years of experience. She has worked for several agencies over the years partnering with clients from a wide range of industries helping them deliver creative and meaningful corporate programs that reach the hearts and minds of employees and leadership teams.

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