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Setting Mutually Developed Performance Goals with Employees
by Marnie Green

Performance goals should be set with employees, not for employees. The purpose of setting performance goals is to give employees targets on which to focus. If the employee has not participated in the establishment of these goals, they are less likely to buy-in to the goals and less likely to find them motivating. Involving employees in the goal setting process is critical.

Here are some tips for developing goals on a mutual basis with employees.

• Find a time when you and the employee can discuss future goals without interruption. The goal setting discussion should be held in a private place without distractions or disruptions.

• Each party, the employee and the supervisor, should bring a few goals to the table. If both the supervisor and the employee bring a few goals in writing, the conversation can begin by focusing on those ideas. It is important that the proposed goals are written. If they are just ideas in your head, they are less "real" and less likely to be clearly communicated.

• Focus on common themes, rather than on differences. The employee may have a new idea about the job that you've not considered. Likewise, you may have expectations or ideas for the employee that might take them by surprise. Be prepared for new ideas. Enter the meeting with an open mind and encourage the employee to do the same.

• Write SMART goals. The goals that you and the employee agree upon should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented.

• Create a final document that lists the goals that you both agree on. This document, a list of goals for the coming year, will provide the road map for future discussions with the employee about their progress and performance. Print this list of goals on brightly colored paper so that it can be easily found and referred to it frequently.

Setting mutually agreeable goals with employees can be a positive process. It allows you both to share hopes and ideas for the future. Setting goals at least annually, if not more often, will lead to higher levels of performance and more motivated employees.

Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Arizona-based Management Education Group, Inc. She is the author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day to Day Employee Performance (Pearson/Prentice Hall). Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop leaders today for the workforce of tomorrow. Contact Green at

Marnie Green may be contacted at


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