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Last month, the RSP Management Tip addressed personal goal setting. In that article, the reasons and process for personal goal setting were laid out. Personal goal setting is a powerful motivator and is also useful in motivating people. Used in an organizational setting, goal setting can enhance performance and job satisfaction.

Recall that effective goals are S.M.A.R.T.

Both personal and organizational goal setting can lay the foundation for outlining how you approach your work. Remember these techniques and look for the upcoming Resource Sharing Project publication on professional workplans!

Research on employee motivation goes back decades and includes Dr. Edwin Lockes (1968) pioneering research, which found that employees were motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback. In an organizational setting, the process of setting a goal and striving to reach it can, in fact, improve performance.

The S in S.M.A.R.T. goal setting stands for specific. Lockes research showed that specific goals led to better task performance. For example, try to get 80% correct is more effective than try your best. Likewise, difficult goals lead to better task performance because accomplishing something difficult is more motivating.

More recently, research has reinforced the need to set specific and difficult goals (Locke Latham, 1990). In order to motivate employees, goals must contain these five principles:

1. Clarity
2. Challenge
3. Commitment
4. Feedback
5. Task complexity

Clear goals are measurable and unambiguous. Clear, specific goals with timelines mean there will be less misunderstanding about expectations. Additionally, rewarding specific results can be a source of motivation.

Challenging goals signal to employees that accomplishing the task is significant. If the task is viewed as easy or not important and the accomplishment insignificant then motivation may decline. At the same time, if a goal is unrealistic then failing at the task is possibly more de-motivating than setting a goal that is too easy.

Commitment comes from mutual understanding and agreement. Employees are more likely to be motivated if they were part of the goal setting process. This does not mean that every goal must be negotiated with and agreed upon by employees, but the goals should be set by a credible person and consistent with the organization’s mission.

Feedback provides opportunities to clarify expectations, adjust goals, and gain recognition. It is important for employees to be able to track their own progress, perhaps through benchmarks. This is the M in S.M.A.R.T. goals: measurable.

Task complexity recognizes that goals that are complicated and demanding require sufficient time to practice/learn and accomplish/improve. The whole point of goal setting is to facilitate success. Even individuals who are already highly motivated may push themselves too hard if expectations dont take into account the complexity of the goal.

Nonprofit Management Goals

Melanie Lockwood Herman, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, has some suggestions for organizational goal setting. The Nonprofit Risk Management Center offers training, technical assistance, and tools related to risk management.

Consider and adapt these risk management goals:

1. Take time to explain the why as well as the what. Misunderstood policies are unlikely to be followed closely. Explain the rationale for new or revised policies in order to increase consistent application.

2. Examine risk from a new perspective. Ask yourself if you have missed the perspective of staff, volunteers, or remotely located personnel. Include those whose formal duties include following but not developing policies.

3. Simplify. A complex policy might be unnecessary and become a downside to risk management.

4. Fight fear. Fear in an organization can prevent change and be unproductive. Instead of losing sleep, commit to facing your fears with practical strategies in order to increase the relevance and resilience of your nonprofit organization.

5. Remember to train. Skimping on training for staff and volunteers can have disastrous consequences.

6. Resolve to get your board on board. There is no time like the present to strengthen governance practices. Great governance creates energy and propels the organization towards its mission.

Herman, Melanie Lockwood. (2011). That time of year. Lockes goal setting theory: Understanding SMART goal setting.