This is the fourth in our blog series focused on reskilling priorities in our increasingly digitized world. Last week we looked at how leaders can hold <productive virtual meetings>.

Today we focus on goal setting (and goal achievement).  It’s a powerful mechanism to reinvigorate and refocus all employees – at a time when we are hungry for a positive and rewarding reboot.

At worst, companies focus only on the ‘setting’; thinking once goals are entered into ‘the system’, they are done. This is a missed opportunity and massive leadership oversight:  Research shows that promoting a focus on meaningful goals harnesses motivation and increases performance – in particular with people keen to grow and advance.

Five ways to get the most out of goals on your teams:

  1. Have conversations

Learn how to have energizing interactions with employees about what they are passionate about, how they want to grow and be more successful. This means letting people come up with their own goals (yes shock horror!) or at least some of them.

  1. Get very specific

Two of the best known researchers on goal-setting found that goals are more likely to achieve desired results when they are specific and challenging.* Vague and ‘easy to achieve’ just doesn’t evoke the right chemistry to keep the brain focused on goal pursuit. Get crystal clear on deadlines, deliverables and measurability.

  1. Stop telling people what to do

We can’t have insights for people. And why would we want to? Leaders who know how to ask questions that get people to reflect, reimagine and commit to action, are always (always) going to get the best out of their team. Period.

  1. Promote goal sharing

We have a social brain. And in case you haven’t noticed, we are highly motivated to be seen positively by our peers. Sharing our goals with others is a powerful way to build trust, evoke peer support and ramp up accountability. A leader can learn how to do this well, including sharing their own goals, to strengthen team cohesion and performance.

  1. Check in, not check out

The old annual (and highly dreaded) performance conversations are, in many organizations, being phased out. The trend instead is to have regular informal check-ins with employees about progress made toward goals, acknowledging effort, insights, and milestone achievements. The increasingly well-establish digital workplace makes this easier than ever to do.

*HBR, January 2017