Establish Two Layers of Performance Objectives

Yesterday, I spent the day with a client that has a compelling corporate mission, one that drives everything they do. It was inspiring to hear them talk about their goals and objectives, because everything was grounded in what it meant for their customers and the greater good. It was clear that these people knew why they were working, and what achieving their goals meant in terms of making the world a better place.

On the way home, I got to thinking about their goals and the stark contrast with most corporate performance goals and objectives. Usually, our performance goals represent just the base result we’re trying to achieve. Typical examples might include:

  • Meet your budget
  • Achieve xx % sales growth
  • Design and launch a new process, program or tool
  • Achieve xx level of customer satisfaction

Think how much more powerful objectives could be if helped our people dig a little deeper for the second level of purpose. What if every performance goal had two levels of intent – the actual result, and the compelling, emotional purpose? I’m not just talking about adding “… in order to…” at the end of the objective. A lot of corporate objectives include the full “so that” results picture. I’m talking about the emotional, greater good purpose – the “why are we really here” component.

Here’s an example from my career. On many occasions I had the privilege of working with direct reports who were managing leadership programs. Their objectives would include designing and running an effective program (as measured by participant ratings, etc.). Now, these people were terrific performers, and I’m sure they wanted to create a quality learning experience simply because they were passionate about their jobs. But what if I had motivated them even more with a longer-term vision of what this program could mean to the participants’ careers or personal lives? Could we have done even better if our second layer objective was making these managers into better community leaders and parents?

Give this concept some thought as you help your teams prepare their annual performance goals for 2009. As they come back to you with a first draft of their goals and objectives, probe a bit to see if you can help them uncover deeper meaning and purpose behind those goals, and then add them to the document. Give your people a more powerful reason for achieving results – show them how to connect what they do to the greater good. Just about everything we do can be taken out to something of personal or social significance. Inspire and motivate your team by helping them develop two levels of performance objectives – achieving the result will have much greater meaning for everyone involved.