Monday, August 28, 2000

The Success Coach

Teamwork key to setting, meeting goals

By Michael A. Crom
Gannett News Service

        QUESTION: I've been newly promoted to a management position. I've worked as a design engineer for several years, just doing my job. Now I'm responsible for a whole department of design engineers working on cutting-edge technology.

        If we fail, it could mean the end of the company. I'm very comfortable with the day-to-day management, but now, my boss has asked me to set goals and objectives for the group. There are so many things I'd like to achieve in the next years that I'm literally overwhelmed.

        Where do I start? — Bill.

        ANSWER: You're discovering the major job of management. While you definitely must be concerned about the day-to-day activities of your employees, your real concern is setting goals and keeping your staff focused on achieving them. It's not easy, but it is what sets your job apart from the one you formerly held.

        As you work to set your group's objectives and develop strategies for meeting them, try following these tactics:

        • Prioritize your goals. You say you want to achieve many things. First, make a list of everything you'd like to see happen. Get input from your employees and top management. Then put those thoughts into four categories — urgent, very important, important and unneeded. Again, ask for advice if you're not sure how important something is. It is not a sign of weakness to admit you don't know the answer, but it is a sign of weakness not to ask for help.

        • Now that you have the general outline of what you'd like to see happen in your department, set clear and specific goals for each area. This includes a time-line — even some of your urgent objectives will need several months or longer to be accomplished. In addition, each goal should have distinct, measurable objectives. For example, don't just say you want to see productivity increase. Instead say, “Productivity will increase by 10 percent by the end of the year with no additional expenses.”

        • Use intermediate goals as markers. Using the earlier example, if you just set a 10 percent productivity increase for the end of the year but do nothing to measure how you're proceeding toward that goal, you could easily reach the end of the year with no improvement. However, if you set a goal of 2 percent increase by the end of the first quarter, you can quickly determine which tactics are working and which aren't.

        • Share the specific goals with your employees. Make sure everyone understands the importance of the goals as well as the time-lines for achieving them. Be sure to get as much input as possible from your workers — they are the people who will have many of the best ideas for meeting these goals. If possible, set up teams of employees to work specifically on certain goals.

        • Reward success. Interestingly, setting goals is one of the easier parts of your job. You now must keep your staff and yourself motivated to achieve them in spite of constant change in the workplace.

        I find the strongest motivator is to give a reward each time a goal is met. It can be as small as a box of doughnuts or even a congratulatory memo. Just make sure that everyone knows you value their input toward the success you've achieved and the successes yet to come.

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