Setting Goals: 3 Steps to Igniting Workplace Engagement

Communicate a sense of purpose and give your team autonomy in their contributions, and you'll have a workforce committed to driving the company forward.

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By Alex Raymond


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The most important power a CEO has is the power to motivate the company's employees. However, few CEOs realize just how critical it that job is. Often, the ability to motivate is chalked up to a natural flair or charisma -- but in fact some simple practices can help any leader inspire an entire company.

It begins with setting goals. I don't mean the dry, mandatory exercises where staff write something obligatory, submit it to their managers and promptly forget about it. I'm talking about setting goals that galvanize the entire company. When you think about it, goals should be exciting. They shape the future. They give staff the power to direct their daily responsibilities and even their careers. They infuse the company with an energizing sense of purpose.

Setting meaningful goals can help even disconnected employees feel invested in the company's success. And an enthusiastic workforce equals a high-performing company.

Related: 7 Questions to Consider When Setting Goals for Your Team (Infographic)

To begin the process, follow these three steps:

1. Begin with company goals.

It's the job of the CEO to select the company's top goals. Maybe they include new product development or a way to help the local community. They're not random, of course; you'll listen to the market, analyze past results and brainstorm with key advisors. But the real secret here is listening to the customer. The smartest businesses today practice agile strategies, and in this case that means aligning your goals with what your customers are trying to achieve.

Pro tip: When you draft your official goals, don't just stick to the operational. Include two or three big ambitious goals -- the kind that move the needle. They'll be too remote to feature in your immediate plans, but you want to promote them anyhow. Why? Because these are the goals that will get your employees excited about coming to work every day.

Related: 5 Steps to Achieving Any Goal

2. Focus on the 'why.'

Let's face it, most businesses don't have Apple's hipness factor or a clear and relatable purpose like an environmental company. That means it's your job as CEO to draw the connection between the employee's duties and the customer's benefit. Employees need to know that what they do during the day impacts big-scale results. By putting the employee's purpose in the context of helping others, you can help everyone understand their role in achieving the company goals. It's a critical ingredient in making sure the goals get executed. If you fail to provide a "why," your busy employees simply won't make their goals a priority.

Pro tip: Link the "why" of goals back to your company's core values and mission. That provides wind at your back and makes it easy to prioritize plans.

3. Get your employees involved

This is where most leaders derail the whole goal-setting enterprise, as they tend to get overly detailed in their planning and try to set everyone else's goals. Because the CEO doesn't know how to actually do everyone's job, those plans wind up being implausible and disconnected from the staff's day-to-day reality. Instead, trust your people to write their own goals. Allowing employees to select the "how" of their contributions will boost morale and help them connect their work to results. Provide guidance and motivation, but let them chart their course.

Pro tip: Encourage employees to align their goals with their manager's to ensure all goals line up with the company end game. Tools like scorecards and dashboards will help keep everyone on track, while metrics for measuring progress will keep your workforce enthusiastic.

When you get down to it, the heart of goal setting is communication. Employees feel motivated when they understand how their work impacts the company's mission. Communicate a sense of purpose and give your team autonomy in their contributions, and you'll have a workforce committed to driving the company forward.

Related: The Secret to Successful Goal-Setting (And Having Your Best Year Ever)

Alex Raymond

CEO and Founder of Kapta

Alex Raymond is the CEO and founder of the goal management platform Kapta and an expert on how goals can make or break a company. 

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