Doesn’t matter the worksheet, goal planning is the same

Make sure your team’s goals roll up, down

Right after or sometimes right before the end of the year, it comes for you. There’s a meeting invite, a cryptic corporate email, or a direct ask: What are your goals for 2022?

For years, internally, I would scream something like, “I have barely made it to this point in this day, shoveling my way through meetings and fires to be put out. Thinking ahead? That will happen late next year. Maybe.”

In this column series, we’ll be sharing resources, templates and frameworks for managers and others to utilize. The ultimate goal? Give you something you can bookmark, download or print out, use and share.

Some acronyms of goal planning

Goal planning is an industry. There are notebooks specifically created to help a person guide themselves through goals. There are also books, podcasts and websites.

With these comes strategy and often, acronyms. Most of the time, you’re asked to break down a small number of big goals into specific actions, and then measure and/or track those actions. Acronyms can help you formulate the larger target. 

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timely.

PACT goals are Purposeful, Actionable, Consistent and Trackable.

OKR goals are focused around Objectives and the Key Results that achieve them.

FAST goals are Frequent, Ambitious, Specific and Transparent.

All of these are fine, and serve leaders. Some of them help with specific blockers your team has: such as strategic planning is facilitated by OKRs, which make you outline each step; SMART goals help people who have little direction on goals and can be applicable to personal goals; FAST goals work for a team that is trying to scale something up quickly.

Whichever worksheet or strategy you use, there are three things all good goal planning frameworks have in common.

The three attributes of good goal frameworks

#1: Good goals roll up

For workplaces, goals have to roll up to larger North Stars. North Star goals for your team are long-term, high-level and aspirational goals. Part of this need to roll up is because of the intrinsic positive and negative motivation for meeting goals. Meeting goals is often how you’re evaluated as an attribute to the company and is one (of many) ways to show you’re an asset and get the promotion or raise you’re seeking. 

#2: In order for any goal planning to work, you have to build in accountability

My biggest mistake has been overly trusting, thinking that people can stay on track and that they can juggle the demands of the news cycle with the larger initiatives mostly on their own. It’s a hard balance to achieve, and people may need more support. 

Goal-setting is not useful if you don’t check in. But it’s especially pointless if you don’t check in regularly. There’s no way to course correct once six months have passed. 

Building in accountability goes beyond a spreadsheet that everyone puts their goals in, though that transparency is helpful. One-on-ones build the foundation for accountability (if you are doing them right), but they are only a first step. 

Find other ways to check in and adjust goals so they are working for the person trying to meet them. Plan experiments, support training opportunities, create teams – whatever helps. 

#3: Goals will never be accomplished if you don’t know what your mission and values are

What is the point of goals if they don’t contribute to something larger? Part of leadership is seeing and identifying the strategy that can be accomplished by the team. Even a goal like “present at a conference” benefits the team at large because it helps one team member grow, while also making the whole enterprise better.

More so than goals rolling up, understanding your mission and values helps individuals and teams create goals that are achievable and supported by others within the newsroom. 

How to roll goals out 

Remember there are people who like goals and people who do not enjoy this process but understand how it is helpful. Rollout of goals can be as structured to your specific team needs. 

As much as goals need to roll up, they also need to roll down

This seems simple, but many organizations have you set goals individually without knowing what the North Stars are. What happens if an individual’s goals conflict with the executive editor’s? You have to set goals as a leader first, and be a role model in how specific and measurable they are. 

Use goal planning as a natural retrospective

Retrospectives are exceedingly helpful. For projects, initiatives and just personal evaluation. Setting this year’s goals requires that you also evaluate how you did last year. Think about the following:

  • What worked
  • What didn’t
  • What were the blockers
  • What needs to change
  • What needs to roll over 

Create transparency

If you think of goals as a tree, where the trunk extends into individual branches of goals, consider that all parts of the tree must be visible for you to evaluate success. 

While HR may ask that you log goals into some sort of internal system, put everyone’s goals somewhere visible (a Google doc, a giant Post-it), and use that as natural accountability. 

For my team, I have a shared Airtable (template here) with everyone’s goals, and the team goals are also listed on the running team meeting log. That second part is new, because I wanted to place goals somewhere where people would see them and be reminded regularly of what we’re working towards. 

Resources included in this piece


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