In a former job, I had a manager who called all of his direct reports together to tell us some exciting news! We were embarking on a big new project that would require everyone in the company to pitch in to make it happen. There was a lot of excitement (mostly from him), and a lot of confusion (mostly from us). Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of follow up about what the goal was, who was going to do what, and by when. When I asked for more specifics, it was clear that nobody really owned the success of this project - nobody knew who was in charge. Not surprisingly, the project was a failure. I think we've all experienced similar things - some well-intentioned leader fails to clarify the expectations, and there's a lot of confusion, re-work, frustration, and lost productivity.
Don't let this happen to you! In your next quarterly planning session, set aside some extra time to be sure that your goals (your KPIs and your priorities) are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Start by writing the goal as clearly and specifically as possible. Write it in a way that anyone can understand what you are doing. (If someone from outside of your team or your company wouldn't get it, it isn't clear.) Assign one owner for each goal to improve accountability, set start and end dates, and use a simple Red-Yellow-Green method to ensure that you've left no question about what success looks like on this goal.
This infographic will help you set SMART goals with Red-Yellow-Green Success Criteria:
Don't stop after writing the goal with Red-Yellow-Green. Share it - communicate it clearly to other leaders and your direct reports. You should also check out our blog post on how to write goals for more information. Listen to any concerns about whether the goal is truly realistic or attainable. Find out if you have resource constraints or will need help from other teams to get it done. Put your goal on a dashboard with the Red-Yellow-Green criteria for everyone to see and remember the goal. Every week, update your status compared to the success criteria. Are you on track for Green? Or do you project you'll fail at this rate? Give yourself a chance to ask for help and make adjustments before it is too late. This is the payoff for taking the extra time at the beginning of the quarter to define success. You'll be more likely to get there!
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