By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.

Director, Yeshua Institute

All of us set goals of one sort or another – or we should be doing so.

We set goals for ourselves. And if we have positions of leadership, we set them with others.

It was once more correct to say “we set goals for others,” but research and experience has taught us that it’s much more effective to set goals with people rather than for them.

That’s true even for parents with small children. Almost as soon as a child can talk, he or she should be brought into the goal setting process about a host of things. No, it’s not about letting children run the home. Parental vision and guidance are essential elements of childhood development. But it is about getting children to engage the behaviors they will need to make their second nature if they are to live happy and fulfilling lives.

Whether it’s in the home or the workplace, anyone who is setting or reviewing goals for themselves or others should focus on answering three questions, according to the Harvard Business Review’s new book, Guide to Performance Management.  

  • Are the goals still realistic, given any changes in resources or constraints?
  • Are they still timely? Is now the best time to achieve them?
  • Are they still relevant? Do they still align with the company’s strategy?

“Depending on the answers, you may need to change only a single goal, replacing it with a new one — but in some cases, the entire plan might need to shift. Work collaboratively with your direct report to come up with new goals that are achievable and important to the organization,” HBR advises.