Unrealistic goals can be demoralizing for any individual or team. Finding the right balance is critical for a manager, but difficult. Here we’ll outline a few ways to deal with difficult goals you’ve been handed.
We’ve all been there before. The boss outlines some absurd metrics for you to hit which are a significant increase over last year, except your pay has stayed the same and your team or budget hasn’t gotten much bigger. You assess the situation and assume achieving these goals probably won’t be possible, and coming to that realization can be a difficult place to be in. The good news is you have options.
A good place to start actually isn’t looking at whether the achievement of those goals is possible (or not possible), but rather if the company aligns with your core values. If it doesn’t, no matter what the metric or goal is you won’t be satisfied. Even if you achieved the goals outlined to you, would you care? Make sure the goals for the company are something you can get excited about and motivated, so you can sustain yourself over the long-run.
Another thing you can do is become a time traveler. Envision yourself achieving the goal, regardless of what it is. Is the feeling “gratifying” or is it just “relief?” If the answer is “relief,” chances are it’s not a goal or a mission you believe in. You won’t be in a mindset to aggressively pursue your goals but rather will approach them in a very defensive and conservative way, almost like survival. If you don’t believe your goals matter, perhaps it’s time to try something different.
If you’ve assessed the situation and you still feel your values are aligned to the business and you actually do want to achieve them, then simply ask for help. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help or understanding how they would achieve the goal. If you are open and your culture is supportive, you should get proper guidance. If not, perhaps a change is what you need.
On the flip side, for leaders who are creating goals in a vacuum, although important to challenge individuals, teams and your company, setting the bar overly high can lead to burnout. Finding that happy balance is the place you want to be, and if you can stay there, growth can be sustainable – not only for your business but your people. When the tipping point is crossed and goals become overwhelming, your goals will start to have an opposite effect or become a drag on your performance. Talk to your team about their goals. Don’t compromise or make things easy on them, but make sure they can be open and honest about where they are at. Building that type of connection with your people and a culture of trust and honesty will go a lot further than chasing down and achieving any short-term metric.