Jul 25

Effective Goal Setting

If you have watched athletics or cycling over the years, you may be familiar with the athletes or cyclists talking about “controlling the controllables or “concentrating on the process rather than the outcome”.

What are they banging on about and how can it benefit you as you try to get a new job or promoted?

Well, the simple answer is they are talking about planning or goal setting, and they are so focussed on it because it works.

This blog will help you to start planning like an athlete because it is equally applicable to being successful in your quest.

Why Bother Setting Goals?

In the 1960’s, two psychologists, Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, discovered that goal setting is one of the easiest ways to increase motivation and productivity – increasing productivity by between 11% and 25%. Nice! Think how that bump would effect your preparation effort?

So, having goals (both short and long term) can have a number of benefits, including:

  • Helping us to focus on what is actually important
  • Providing motivation
  • Giving purpose and a real sense of personal satisfaction upon achievement
  • Helping develop the resilience to take the inevitable knock backs

Importantly, if goal setting is broken down into outcome, performance and process goals it makes it easier to organise our thinking around how we’re going to succeed.

Outcome Goals

An outcome goal is the overall goal that you are working towards. Examples of outcome goals include:

  • To win a gold medal at an event
  • To win a park run
  • Achieve £1m in sales in 2019

In our context, the outcome goal is getting the new job or being promoted.

Whilst outcome goals are hugely motivating, they are not under your control as they are affected by how others perform or again in our world, how the assessors rate you.

So although it’s important to set your self an outcome goal, we need to break this down further into subsets to help you achieve the overall goal.

Performance Goals

A performance goal is a performance standard that you are trying to achieve. These are the performance standards you set for yourself to achieve if you are going to build towards achieving your outcome goal over time.

As an example, consider an athlete with the outcome goal of winning a 5K park run. They know that all previous winners have posted a time of under 19 minutes. So they can make a reasonable assumption that to win the race, they too must be able to run the distance in this time. There will still be other variables out of their control but the logic makes sense. So they set themselves some performance goals:

  • Their first performance goal might be to run 5k in 22 minutes.
  • Their 2nd performance goal might be to run 5k in 20 minutes.
  • And their final performance goal might be to run 5k in 18:30.

By stacking performance goals in this manner, they can be used to track their performance towards the ultimate outcome goal. It is achieving the final performance goal that makes the athlete feel ready to attempt to hit their outcome goal and actually win the race.

In recruitment & selection, examples of performance goals could include:

  • Score minimum of ‘3’ for each question asked in a mock competency based Interview
  • Fully understand the logistics and criteria of the process being run in the company
  • Consistently pass practice situational judgement tests

Process Goals

Process goals support performance goals by giving you something to focus on as you work towards your performance goals. Process goals are completely under your control. They are the small things you should focus on or do to eventually achieve your performance goals. Think of them as critical success factors – don’t have them and you limit your chance of success.

Again using our example of the athlete, they may set the following process goals to help them hit their performance goals.

  • Train 4 days per week including a leg day at the gym
  • Eat fewer than 1,800 calories per day
  • Remove sugar from diet
  • Employ a performance coach to help with technique

In a recruitment & selection process examples of process goals could include:

  • Read up on the theory of competency based assessment
  • Write one example answer each week so have minimum of 10 example answers for the interview
  • Book onto a specific interview coaching course
  • Set aside and time table 4 hours protected study time each week
  • Take at least one SJT each week
  • Ask HR questions about the process and how it will be specifically run

You will have noticed that you have total control of the process goals that you set yourself but much less control over performance and outcome goals – this is where your focus and effort should be.

However you approach your interview, one thing is crystal clear – they are much too difficult to ‘wing’. In my experience there is a huge correlation between those who plan and invest time into their preparation and those who think “it will be alright on the night”

To help you alter your mind-set we have produced the following simple template that may help you plan more effectively and ‘b’ the best you can be.

Performance Goal Template