The Puzzle Of Performance Goals

Over the years managing people I have frequently encountered confusion about what the goals for a particular individual should be. Some people pushed for purely performance based goals like “Ship product xyz on February 2nd,” or “Write an article about performance goals that is 500 words long by the end of the week.” Some people pushed more for developmental goals like “Improve your language skills,” or “Learn how to use MS Excel.”

How do you approach setting goals for your team? What is the right mix of these goals and why are they important? In my mind you can divide the goals or objectives into three categories

  • Performance goals (things you need to get done to fulfil the scope of your job)
  • Professional developmental goals (things you need to learn to be able to do your job; usually more so called hard-skills, depending on the job)
  • Personal developmental goals (things you want to learn to be a better person; usually more focused on soft-skills and dealing with others)

Performance Goals

These are the things you need to achieve as a part of your job. Why are they important? Well, without clear goals you don’t know what to do and you have no way of knowing how you will be evaluated. It is important to set these goals regularly for yourself and your team to set expectations. Do this and that by this time. It is important to say not just what needs to be done but how it will be measured or what will be the criteria telling you whether you succeeded. “Hire the team of developers by the end of the month,” sounds reasonable until the end of the month comes and you have five people on board feeling happy while your boss frowns and tells you he expected at least twice as many.

But the performance goals are just the beginning. The one thing you need in pretty much any job is a trust. You need to trust your team that they will do a good job. You need to trust to your boss that he knows what he is doing when tasking you. Trust depends on two principal items: competency and character. Competency tells you whether someone has the knowledge to do the job. Whether he is “technical” enough. Character tells you whether he will do the job to the best of his abilities, whether he will do it the right way, and whether he will strive to be better and better at what he does. These two aspect needs to be addressed by professional (competency) and personal (character) developmental goals.

Professional Developmental Goals

Many of us need to learn new skills to be able to get our job done or even more often to prepare for the next job. We need to constantly use new tools, new technologies and techniques. There are always ways how to be more productive, get more things done and do them better than in the past.

Are you aspiring to lead a team? There are tons of skills you need to learn to be successful at that job. Some of them are more “technical” and some of them more “soft”. How do you hire people? How do you set the tasks? How do you evaluate the results? How do you provide feedback, perform one-on-one’s, or direct meetings? These are goals that are a bit trickier to evaluate but are important developmental steps to get to the next level. If you don’t discuss with your team their developmental goals you are most likely not providing feedback that would help them grow in their careers.

Personal Developmental Goals

Then come objectives like learn to listen, accept feedback and act on it. Things like being able to make tough decisions, being able to coach and mentor people around you. You may want to push the limits of your own abilities, you want to see the world around you, get new experiences to enrich yourself, or you want to get more comfortable in standing by your own values and opinions. You need to have solid values and live them, and you need to play nice with others. These are usually very “soft” things that are very personal. To learn them usually means changing a bit who you are. These are things that no external observer can evaluate, or at least not easily. It is usually only you to decide what you need to work on and whether you are succeeding.

The sad thing is that these are usually the most important goals because they set the foundations of who you are and how you act. They are also most often overlooked in performance discussions because of their inherent touchy-feely nature and difficult measurement. If you want to help your team members with these goals you need to be a coach or a guide who will show them the journey so they can identify these needs for themselves and then be the mentor who will help them work on improving and be better human beings.

In a correctly set performance management you need to deal with all three types of goals. If you overlook one part you will struggle in the other two areas too. So next time you have your performance evaluation or you talk with your boss or your team about the goals make sure you discuss not just what needs to be done to fulfil your job duties but also what needs to be done for you to become better at your job and at the end also a better person.

More on topic of goals and productivity:

Delete Your Calendar At Least Twice A Year

How To Make SMART Goals Smarter

Getting Stuff Done: The Right Attitude

Getting Stuff Done: The Right Priorities

Getting Stuff Done: The Right Tactics


How do you set your own goals and the goals for your team? Do you make a clear distinction between them? Along what lines?

Photo: Shutterstock, Inc.

Categories: Performance

Tags: , ,

1 reply


  1. How To Manage Your Manager – The Geeky Leader

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: