Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Setting small goals can kick start your team

Earlier this year many of us were asked by our managers to set “stretch” goals that will require going the extra mile and pushing ourselves to the limits.

In most cases, stretch goals can be the stimulus that inspires employees to “think outside the box” and improve their performance in ways they never thought they could. When times are tough, however, such goals may throw some into a state of shock.

While they can be a great way to tap into an employee’s ambition, setting stretch goals may stir up “a recipe for paralysis,” according to Dan Heath and Chip Heath in the Fast Company article Set Smaller Goals, Get Bigger Results.

Dan and Chip argue that setting smaller goals is the key to jump-starting performance during tough times and recommend that employees set “whisker goals” instead of intimidating stretch goals.

Instead of setting goals that are seemingly unattainable, whisker goals set targets that fall just slightly short of the “status quo.” Because their small and easily reached, whisker goals help us to get past the initial fear and anxiety that deter us from trying to reach lofty goals.

From the Fast Company article:

Whisker goals are particularly well suited to our current moment. Adversity taps our strength. When you've just laid off someone, it feels like too much to bear to offer constructive criticism to another employee. When you've given up your bonus and had your budget cut, it feels like too much to consider going back for that master's degree. In hard times, we retrench. We maintain. We certainly don't stretch.

But retrenchment is the wrong response to adversity. Adversity calls for change, and change doesn't arrive via a miracle: It arrives via a kick start.

Setting small, whisker goals are a great way to energize a team that may be stuck in a state of paralysis. Use whisker goals, along with small employee recognition awards, to get the ball rolling.

Once you start reaching a handful of smaller performance goals, those stretch goals may not seem so far away. Sometimes it takes a little push to get people off the starting line, but they’ll be off and running before you know it.

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