It’s a familiar feeling - when you get to the end of the year, a swell of anxiety rises as your annual review approaches. Will I find out something from my manager that I didn’t know? Am I even doing well in my role? 

This is also the time when you and your manager align on upcoming goals, which can be another source of anxiety. Will my goals be too aggressive? Or what if they take away a responsibility I am passionate about?

It’s only natural to feel nervous as you prepare for your end of year review. But what if there was a different way to set and align on goals that didn’t culminate in one big conversation and then fall out of focus as the year goes on?

We believe the key to successful goal setting is spreading the conversation out over the year through regular one on one check-ins. Just like you wouldn't set a fitness goal only to think about it again a year later, our workplace goals should be a frequent conversation.

When you shift your focus away from projects and towards people development, growth naturally happens. Changing the way you have these conversations could be transformational for your team as they develop their skills and learn to lead. 

Here are three steps to setting, and not forgetting, goals that will bring you fresh perspective on the end of year review conversation and allow for more productive growth. 

1. Break the conversation into smaller pieces. 

While a big yearly conversation is still important, the conversation around goals shouldn’t end there. Every quarter, each manager and their team members should set trackable goals together. Consider having a meeting aside from your regular one on ones to specifically discuss these and to make sure they are specific to alignment with other big picture company goals, team goals, and individual goals. Set these goals based on:

  • Job Description - Ensure each team member understands their role and has goals directly tied to their area of expertise.
  • Company Goals/Needs - This reminds your team where their efforts directly impact organizational goals.
  • Leadership Development - People want to be developed. Goals surrounding development will allow you to see strengths they have outside of their day-to-day tasks.
  • Include a personal goal like reading a book a month or joining in the company fitness challenge. Show your team you care about their overall growth.

This is the approach we take at Leadr to ensure year-round progress. Want to see how you can apply it to your team? Here's a quick clip of Leadr goals. Request a demo to see more about how goals integrate with your meetings, reviews, and learnings in Leadr. 

Goals in Leadr

2. Build the discussion into your regular rhythms of feedback. 

Setting goals is just the first step - but the second, more important, step is to not forget them. You should discuss progress with a team member throughout the year. When you get to performance review season, there should be no surprises. Talking through goals regularly also helps address potential roadblocks that might pop up after you’ve set your goals. 

We think discussions about promotions and pay should happen separately from the review conversation. Maybe an unexpected challenge, such a team member leaving, requires a different team member to step up and lead, adding new responsibilities. If you’re discussing goal progress consistently during one on ones and checking progress at least quarterly, you’ll have a chance to address how goals need to change, how someone is handling new leadership opportunities, and how the person is doing overall. 

Lack of progress on goals is often linked to burnout or feeling undervalued or overwhelmed. A survey of workers by Randstad revealed that a stalled career was the number one driver for burnout. According to Jim Link, chief human resources officer at Randstad North America, “you’re more likely to feel this way if you work in a deadline-driven environment with constrained resources. 

A “task-oriented” work environment can make workers feel they are running on a hamster wheel.” Offering team members a safe space to express these concerns as they arise through regular one on one meetings will ensure you and your team are adapting as needed throughout the year rather than waiting for a review conversation.

Revamp Your Performance Reviews

3. Remember that goal setting has a goal too.

Regularly discussing goals and giving feedback on how things are going challenges the stereotype that feedback always has a negative attached to it - it doesn’t. Feedback can be constructive when something goes wrong, but it can also be an effective tool for hearing: “you’re in the right role. Keep doing this the way only you can do it. You bring value to this team.” Your team needs to know their manager cares about their growth and sees how they can help be part of the success of the organization as a whole. It’s empowering and catalyzes growth, even when you have to deliver bad news at times. 

The Power of Revisiting Goals

Setting goals and revisiting them quarterly and talking through what went well and what didn’t is a measurable and specific way to track growth over the entire year. That way, when you get to the annual review, not only does the anxiety dissipate, but it’s also an opportunity for you to look back together and celebrate the overall wins - how far you’ve come, reflect on what you learned and what mistakes taught your team, and celebrate where you’re going next with people who are passionate about what they do. It’s a win all around.

Tools like Leadr help with goal setting by offering a platform that keeps goals front-of-mind in every one on one meeting, review, and team meeting. If you’d like to see Leadr in action, we’d love to show you what it looks like. See how you can incorporate thoughtful reflection on goals and objectives, plot out how much time you want to spend in each area, and see metrics that illustrate the outcomes from the work you’ve put into the goals. Request a demo to see how it can work for your team. 

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