Aug 4, 2016

Think about losing weight. You might have a small goal like 5 pounds, or a bigger goal like 50, either way, you start going to the gym and work out every day. You change your diet, giving up some of your favorite indulgences. A week goes by…you don’t lose any weight. Two weeks…nothing. Three weeks…it still doesn’t move. You’re doing the things you should be but you just aren’t seeing any movement towards your goal. It’s the most frustrating experience in the world!

Now imagine if you found out that you didn’t have to wait a few weeks, or even a few months; imagine if you had to wait an entire year to find out if you made progress. What’s the chance that you’re going to be able to stick with it? Slim to none. This is just one of the reasons that annual performance reviews don’t actually drive performance!

Shorten your time frame

How do we fix that? Simple. You shorten the time frame of the goals. Any runner will tell you that when you’re in a race – be it a 5K or a marathon – you speed up when you near the finish line. Performance goals work in the same way – we speed up when the end is in sight. This creates momentum that makes the work go a heck of a lot easier! Some companies have figured this out and have nixed the idea of the annual performance review altogether in favor of quarterly evaluations. But that’s not short enough! Let’s go back to our weight loss example – imagine if you had to wait three months to see progress on a goal. It’s still a long time!

What you want to do is break those annual or quarterly goals down into small, achievable, weekly increments that you can easily measure the progress of. Don’t get all SMART goal crazy with this – what you’re looking for is simple progress in the direction you want to go. For example, if your goal is to sign 10 new clients this quarter, then what can you do this week to help you towards that goal?:

  • Make more phone calls to prospects?
  • Send more emails?
  • Go to a networking event?
  • Complete a proposal?

Any of those would make a great weekly goal that rolls up to a larger quarterly goal. Actually write it down and document your weekly progress! Put it in a folder and then when review time comes around, you’re all set with ammo to use in your self-evaluation.

Let’s look at another one. Say your quarterly goal is to improve the quality of outgoing communications. Maybe one of the things you want to track is the amount of errors that are going out – you want to see that number going down. This isn’t labor intensive – just a simple up or down.

You’re in control

I hope you see an additional commonality between those two examples – these are things that should be directly within your control. You’re in control of how many typos you spot in a document. You’re in control of how many phone calls you make. You’re in control if you schedule a lunch meeting with a co-worker to pitch a new project. You’ve got to see yourself as the driver of forward progress, rather than simply a passenger on someone else’s train.

Don’t wait for your boss to set goals

Sometimes people are hesitant to put these structures in place outside of the formal review process. This will only hold you back. You do not have to wait for HR or your boss to see the light in regards to performance management to change your day-to-day! Take control of your own performance management process, and set these short weekly goals that roll up into the larger goals you’ve been tasked with achieving! Do it this way and you’ll surpass expectations almost every time because you will have built a structure that allows for sustained momentum.

And yes, if you manage people, this is something you should be doing with them every single week in your one-on-one meetings. Build that structure and support system that allows for them to see this ongoing progress, and give them tons of positive feedback along that way. That’s how you drive engagement.

This post originally appeared on Zen Workplace.