Practical Goal Setting: Identifying Your Why (and Your Team’s Whys)

You can guess at an employee’s intrinsic motivation or you can coach them to give voice to it.  

What’s proven not to work in terms of driving employees to reach specific goals, is loads of external ‘motivation’…..Think motivational emails, speeches, or much less annoying – spiffs, accelerators, contests, etc. Those are fun and definitely capture short-term attention, but are not necessarily that ‘thing’ that will cause an individual to push through and exert the extra effort to make a few more calls and send out a few more personal emails at the end of a long day.  And those incentives are certainly not enough to motivate when the going gets tough and it becomes clear that those opportunities for additional compensation are out of reach. 

Most of your people likely ‘work to live’ versus ‘live to work.’  So it’s hard to ensure that they are doing what’s necessary to be successful without some frequent reminder to execute on the behavior and activity you know they need to generate in order to ultimately see results.  A sales leader early in my career suggested that the way to make my life easier as a manager was to spend time with each rep to understand their ‘why’:  

What are they working towards? What are they going to do with the commission or bonus money? What is it that might compel them to fight thru distraction, weariness, dislike or discomfort?  

It’s a lot easier to ask someone, ‘How’s it going towards your goal of saving up for that car, vacation or engagement ring?’ then asking, ‘How come your calls are down this week?” he told me.  That piece of advice not only set me on a path to understand my team at a much deeper level (by helping them articulate their own intrinsic motives), but it also forced me to think about my own goals and objectives and put them down on paper every year.

There is something magical about putting those goals down on paper, and for those goals that cost money, figuring out how much I’d need to make in order to achieve those. It’s a business, ‘CEO-of-your-own-company’, type exercise that I believe every single Rep or CSM should conduct every year (as should everyone in the chain of command for that matter).  It’s a true forcing function to reverse engineer the goal and break it down into digestible, daily goals. It’s like working out to get stronger or lose weight. You are not going to see the results in the short term, but if you break the long- term goal into specific behaviors, you wind up tracking your steps, your caloric intake, your rep/set count at the gym, or your mileage on a treadmill. Then you can draw satisfaction from the fact that you are achieving daily or weekly objectives that you trust will pay the big results you want down the road.  To continue the gym analogy, the coach becomes like the personal trainer who sits down early on to discuss one’s specific goals and then encourages, pushes, and supports the trainee at the gym. 

The benefit of all this to the Rep/CSM is they are able to come to work each day with purpose, for themselves and their family. They have their ‘eye on the prize’ and a person, their manager, who will remind them about that goal when they forget or get distracted – or things get tough! They also have a short term, immediate goal each day to go after with respect to certain behaviors or activities that are 100% in their control. This mitigates the risk of getting overwhelmed with a big quota goal that is put on their shoulder and candidly, makes the quota feel almost irrelevant.  In fact, getting them to work through this exercise (bottom up) before you hand out quotas (top down) facilitates a better goal-setting discussion. The last time I did this, most had a higher number for themselves than the quota I was going to give them. You can imagine how much easier my discussion was!

In summary, a big part of our job as managers is understanding our people and making sure they understand their own goals and motivation.  It’s ok to force them to write it down. It’s a best practice, beneficial to all, to have them break it all down into daily or weekly activities.  This is what we then manage to, trusting that the results will come.  Consider having your reps fill out their Personal Goal Sheet in Q4 as a way to jumpstart next year.  The first sheet is just for them, unless they want to share. The second sheet forms the basis of your plan on how to coach them to success.