AwardWelcome to the end of 2015. Right now, goals and annual plans are being finalized for 2016. Employee performance reviews are being conducted.

And whether your company does 360, 180, 90 44.5, 11.6,  peer reviews, or uses the “latest and greatest” impersonal goal measurement software, it’s time to understand one thing: most employees totally forget about the goal-setting process once it’s completed.

Until it’s brought up one year later during the next round of performance reviews, that is.

I never really understood the “annual plan,” especially when we kept restating it every month. “Amazingly,” we would always come in on or close to target.

And don’t even get me started on the five-year plan. Or that question that some out-of-touch hiring managers still use: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

If some interviewer asks you that question, politely end the interview and get the hell out of there as fast as you can! That hiring manager has no clue.

Businesses seem to set goals – both personal and departmental – and then, for some reason, a new VP, EVP, SVP, CIO, COO, CEO, ED, or someone else impressed with their title will show up on the scene, change the direction of the business, and out the window go the goals.

Now, I’m not saying goals are totally useless. But what if we took a different approach?

What if we weren’t so tied to completion dates? What if goals were open-ended? What if we set goals for things we weren’t going to do any longer? What if we set goals that were broader so that “changes in direction” would still allow us to have that satisfaction of completing our goals? What if we acknowledged goal completion and milestones in a manner other than the annual performance review process?

What If We Made Goal Completion Visible, Personal, and Fun?

A friend of mine, Kathy Flaherty, is the executive director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project. She is also a runner and member of the Run 169 Towns Society. She joined in March of 2014. Connecticut has 169 towns – hence the name of the society. Every town has some sort of a run or race. Kathy intends to run in every town’s run or race. Her goal for completing all 169 towns is …


Now that’s my kinda goal!

At time of this writing, she has completed 6o+ towns. Now, she does have some goals. Here they are:

  1. To say, “I did it, and it was fun.”
  2. To be crowned “queen.” (Every time a new member of the society finishes all 169 towns, he or she dethrones the current king or queen and gets the coveted crown – until the next person completes all 169 towns.)
  3. To not repeat a town unless there is a reason.

RunnerKathy often receives medals when she runs a race or run, and she proudly shows those off on her social media accounts. Although she acknowledges that some goals are worth striving for solely for the sake of accomplishing them, she is not afraid to admit that getting a new shiny thing is effective additional motivation.

When talking to Kathy, it got me thinking about the goal-setting process in companies. How cool would it be if managers/leaders trashed those goals (you know, the ones you’re setting right now as you read this) and gave out medals for completion or achievement milestones along the way?

Revenue is up? Give everyone a medal.

New client signed on? Give that salesperson a medal.

Measurable social media growth? Give that person or team a medal.

Worked the least amount of hours and got more work done than most? Give that person a medal.

Stopped issuing a report that was nothing but busy work and no one noticed or missed it? Give that person a medal.

Figured out how to do less with less – not more with less – and get more done? Give that person a medal.

Made a contribution to the community and got your company’s name out there? Give that person a medal.

Found a free app that saved a gazillion dollars in software development consulting? Give that person 10 medals!

I think you get my point. Things are changing so fast that the types of goals so many managers are still setting with staff really do need to be revisited and questioned – and eliminated!

Because in June, there’s a real good chance that you’re not going to need to do those things any longer, anyway.

But if the business is growing, and there are no layoffs, and more customers are onboard, and people are talking about you, and costs are being contained, and people are being more productive, and there’s a sense of fun throughout the organization – then everyone is a winner.

And they all deserve a medal!

Which, let’s face it – that’s the society we live in today, anyway.

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