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Goals Can Lead To More Than Outcomes

May 8, 2017 in

Most organizations have established goal setting practices that often start with long-term goals broken down in short-term quarterly or annual goals. This process provides benchmarks for the employees to meet. If the goals are met, then celebrations and bonuses can occur and if not, potential change of staff. This form of goal setting is helpful for planning, yet it can miss the mark on numerous other benefits of effective goal setting.

When it comes to goal setting, as with all topics, leadership can have a positive impact. Often leaders will dictate goals to employees. Leaders do so because they are focused on the metrics necessary to achieve their strategic objectives. However, research has shown that it is much better to involve employees in the goal setting process without having to change the metrics necessarily. Leaders can involve employees by setting task focused goals, values based goals, and leveraging public commitment. Doing so leads to greater growth focus, autonomy, self-satisfaction, work ethic, and sense of commitment.1, 2, 3

Task Oriented Growth

Leadership can set an environment which will reduce the amount of worry experienced while increasing overall team satisfaction. Less worry and higher team satisfaction occurs when employees set goals that are task focused; a goal to improve their previous performance.1 An example of a task focused approach is for a salesperson to make a goal regarding their own sales numbers, rather than comparing their numbers with other members of the team. Keeping focus on task improvement, such as increasing this year’s sales by 7%, enables the individual to direct their full attention and effort towards their performance. If everyone on the team sets task focused goals to improve, then there are opportunities for collaboration, sharing ideas and generating leads.

The Person’s Values

A task focused approach to goal setting can be further enhanced by integrating the individuals’ core values, which give direction for how someone lives. Core values are often instilled from parents, family members, and culture. People value many things, but there are four or five core values that provide guidance on daily living. An example of one core value is respect. This person that includes respect as a core value will strive to show respect. Not only do they show respect, they appreciate when respect is given to them and can become disgruntled when it is lacking.

People often make goals for the rewards, such as a bonus, or commendation. Goals revolving around rewards becomes an issue over time because those items aren’t meaningful enough and

the person may feel it simply isn’t worth the work. The stronger approach is to help the person identify their core values that will support their efforts in the goal achievement process.

Considering again the person who values respect, they can form a plan to integrate respect as they work to increase their sales for the year. An example is sending a thank you card for every potential client, thanking them for their time and including something which they respected about the person. This would help to build the relationship which could lead to a sale. Another goal for the person who values respect is to purposely schedule adequate time in between appointments so they will always arrive on time. Arriving on time is a way to demonstrate respect to the potential client.

Putting effort into integrating one’s core values into the task focused goals will give a greater sense of autonomy and self-satisfaction as the daily tasks will be viewed as something that aligns with their values rather than mundane work tasks.2


US Special Operations Groups are the elite few of the bigger elite US Military. Even people who have no military experience or associations know of Navy SEALS, Green Berets and possibly other units as well. There are many things that make these units elite, one of them being the absolute commitment from every single outstanding member that makes up the team. While each member has outstanding qualities, they understand that together, they make up something much more powerful and special. For this commitment to happen, each unit has a process enabling voluntary, public commitments.3

Other professions aren’t the same as US Special Operations; however, a lesson learned from commitment can be applied during the goal setting process. It should be encouraged for employees to share their goals with their peers and others in a public forum. Remember, this should be voluntary rather than forced. The difference can be subtle, but it enables the leader to make the appropriate avenue available and perhaps lead by demonstrating first. This system should become the norm over time, making it part of the organization’s culture.

Adjustments for Growth

There are over 9,000 hits when searching Amazon for goal setting. That is a lot to work through and determine which is the best approach. The focus here was not to choose one method, but to instead, understand how adjusting the process of goal setting can provide added benefits beyond the achievement. A motivational climate where everyone is focused on improving, and people are more autonomous and satisfied with their work are characteristics that can lead to success not only for goals, but years in the future as well.

For those looking for more information on Goal Driven Commitment, feel free to reach out to HigherEchelon.


  1. Harwood, Chris G., et al. “A systematic review of the intrapersonal correlates of motivational climate perceptions in sport and physical activity.” Psychology of Sport and Exercise 18 (2015): 9-25.
  2. Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. “Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being.” American psychologist 55.1 (2000): 68.
  3. Cialdini, Robert B. Influence. Vol. 3. A. Michel, 1987.