Objective Setting

23.02.2018 |

Episode #2 of the course Leadership: How to be a great boss by Chris Croft


Leadership is about vision, systems, and people, and the vision of the leader divides down into the objectives of each person on their team. These objectives should be agreed upon by you and by them.

People are much more motivated to achieve an objective if they choose it for themselves. If you just tell someone that they have to achieve, say, a 10% increase in sales, they will probably feel that the goal is too difficult or unfair, or at best, they’ll be detached from it: They won’t care about it. And of course, if they fail, they can claim the objective was unfairly high. But if they set it themselves, they are emotionally involved with achieving it.

The other advantage is that people tend to be quite ambitious in the objectives they set themselves. It’s possible that you’ll want a 10% increase, and when you ask them what level they would like to aim for, they’ll say that they want to aim for 20%. That’s great!


What an Objective Should Cover

Ideally, an objective will include two things: area (for example, “waste in the print room”) and amount (for example, 20%). The areas should be clearly defined and the amount should be measurable. So, it might be to sell 10% more in Scotland or to reduce waste in the print room by 20%. You can see that “to reduce waste” is not clear enough; it fails on both area and amount.

Also, the areas should add up to the whole picture: If you are the leader, you need to make sure that the areas for each of your team add up to the whole country that you are in charge of or the whole factory, etc.


The Process of Defining Objectives

Ideally, you let your team members define both the area and the amount. So, you might start by asking, “What improvements would you like to make to the factory this year?” and see what they say. If you have waste reduction in mind and they talk about various things besides waste, you can add, “And what about waste?”

If they select the area but not the amount—for example, “I can get the waste down”—you can say, “By how much, do you think?” and get the amount agreed as well.

What if you want waste reduced by 10% and your team member says, “I want to set a target to get waste down by 2% this year”? You can still say, “I don’t think 2% is ambitious enough. I think you’re well capable of getting it down by 10%.”



It’s a cliché that goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed. I think specific and measurable mean the same thing, and achievable and realistic do too. So, I’d like to propose SPVEG.

Goals should be Scary, by which I mean, they should be hard to imagine achieving, taking you a little out of your comfort zone. That’s fine because the people who work for you will be supported by you as they do this, and if they fail, it’s okay, as long as they did their best.

P is positive and V is visual, so the goals should be something they can see themselves doing. For example, reducing the number of accidents in a factory is a great thing but too negative. The P and V would be to get training arranged, set up a register of all near misses, visit best practice companies to see how they do it, etc.

The E is that goals should excite the emotions; otherwise, nothing will happen. It’s no good to increase sales by only 2%—aim big! And the G is Generous: Goals should help other people, whether it’s customers or colleagues, or overall make the world a better place for everyone.

Homework: I’d like for you to check that your team’s goals are SPVEG in all areas—and if not, arrange to meet with them and get them to set ambitious goals for themselves.

See you tomorrow when we’ll look at how to decide whom to give which task.



Recommended book

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek


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