How To Do Your Own Goal Setting with Limited Information

Eileen AzzaraCareer development, Goal setting, Taking Action

goal setting
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This may stress you out, but the end of the year is approaching. Along with a million other things, you’ll soon need to think about goal setting for next year – whether you set traditional goals annually or if you use quarterly OKRS (objectives and key results).

Ideally, your individual goals will be tied to your company’s goals. This linkage is known as goal alignment. Sometimes goal alignment is demonstrated in a formally cascaded goal setting process, sometimes it’s more of an informal connection. And sometimes goal alignment of any form is just a pipe dream.

A common problem we hear from our clients related to aligning individual goal setting with company goals is the timing of the release of corporate goals. Oftentimes, particularly in larger organizations, goals are released sometime during Q1 of the relevant year rather than Q4 of the previous year. This has a ripple effect of delaying employees’ ability to set their own goals, because they are still waiting for the higher-level goals to be released. Likewise, leaders of departments or business units who wish to set goals for their organizations are held back by the late release of company goals. By the time goal setting reaches the individual level, the second quarter could be well underway.

At other companies, goals may be poorly defined, or perhaps defined sufficiently but not communicated down the chain of command. Either way, these circumstances leave employees in the similar position of being unable to tie their own goals to higher level strategic objectives. This is unfortunate, because the benefits to goal alignment include positive outcomes ranging from financial results to employee motivation.

Here at Fast Mirror we’re all about employees taking ownership of their careers. Every individual has the power to get feedback and drive his/her career development with or without employer support. Having employer support is great if it exists, but it’s not necessary for people who are motivated enough to take independent action. In this post, this same logic will be applied to goal setting.

Is it more difficult to set goals without input from your company or leadership? Of course. But it’s not impossible, and it’s no excuse to allow it to hold you back. You actually have a lot of information already at your fingertips, so there’s no reason you can’t get started setting goals now. Here’s how.

3 Sources of Information For Doing Your Own Goal Setting

1 . Use the information you have to set goals.

You may not believe you have any insight into what next year’s goals will be, but you actually know a lot more than you think. Consider your company’s main priorities. I would bet you can easily name several likely goals for next year. While the details may be tweaked, chances are those things will continue to be a priority. Are there any current initiatives that are likely to be continued in the following year? What about trends in your industry? Are there any hot topics or benchmark data that provides insight as to what’s to come? Are your competitors doing something that you’re currently not doing, but should? Finally, talk to your colleagues. What have they been working on this year? Have they heard anything about future priorities? In all likelihood, there will be few if any surprises when next year’s goals finally are released. So use your expertise as an employee in the company to determine what you should be working on.

2. Review your current state and identify what you want to change.

Take a look at how things are going today. Review your progress on your current goals. What is going well that you can continue to build on? What challenges are you facing and what can you do to address them? Were there any surprises that came up this year that you can plan for in the future? Lastly, consider your lessons learned for this year. What are the areas you know need to be fixed?

Consider these questions as your own personal needs assessment to identify actions for the future. This approach also works for people whose issue is lack of strategic direction rather than delay of goals communication.

3. Ask for feedback.

Just because you need to initiate your own goal setting doesn’t mean you need to do it in a vacuum. Ask your colleagues for feedback. What do your clients think needs attention? How about your direct reports? If you work on a team or project group, what is the general consensus? You can even talk to people you don’t typically work with – this may give you a whole new perspective. Be sure to ask for feedback from people who will be comfortable enough to give you constructive suggestions rather than simply telling you how awesome you are, because you can be both awesome and have areas to improve on at the same time.

Do any of these goal setting challenges resonate with you? What have you done to overcome them? How have you taken ownership of your own goals? Share with us in the comments.

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