Importance of Goal Setting, in Crisis

Ed Baldwin Driving Productivity, Ed Baldwin, Leadership, Managing People, Performance

Have you been able to make progress against your goals over the past couple months, or has everything been pushed aside due to the corona virus crisis? If you’re like me, all goals unrelated to this pandemic and “keeping the lights on” haven’t just been pushed to the back burner – they aren’t even in the kitchen!

Who cares right? Wrong.

With the impact of corona virus overtaking virtually all aspects of our lives, our organizations and people are reeling. Huge percentages of our workforce are working from home, being furloughed/laid off, or not coming to work at all. People are understandably distracted, confused and scared. And leaders and employees are hungry for a steady hand, a voice of reason, and calm in the storm.

Enter you and your HR team!

HR has never been more important than it is right now. Responding to your organizations need for information, insight and guidance is awesome. But if that’s all your doing, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity. HR pros are being tasked with not only keeping ourselves and our own teams productive, but also guiding our leaders and companies as a whole, setting the example in terms of planning and effectiveness.

If you aren’t good about setting goals and prioritizing generally, then a crisis gives us an excuse to recklessly charge through our days reacting to whatever is in front of us – just like everyone else.  Our rally cry of “to hell with my to-do list, I’m fighting a world pandemic here!” suddenly becomes legitimized because of what’s happening.  

Ok, I’ll give you that … but only for a little while. 

Then, I calmly suggest that the best way each of us can participate in fighting the world pandemic is to be more productive and focused than ever, delivering at peak effectiveness when so much of the world is turned off for one reason or another.  Be the calm in the storm, and amp up your productivity in the face of chaos. 

How? Goal setting. Seriously? Yes.

Now, you could go read any number of books to learn strategies for crisis planning and effective goal setting, but who has time for that right now? I’ve gathered some cliff notes (true FOT style) for making certain you (and your team) are practicing effective goal setting and prioritization right now, when it matters most.

  • Do goal setting collaboratively.  Goal setting and prioritization isn’t a quarantine activity.  Maybe come up with what you think should be your goals on your own, but then share them.  Share them with your boss, but also with colleagues.  Be certain by checking with others that you’re focused on the right things and that you won’t be doing awesome work no one cares about.
  • Write your goals down, and refer to them often.  If you don’t write them down then they aren’t important and aren’t guiding you.  That’s a huge fail.  And if you don’t know where they are then that’s an even bigger fail.  Put your goals into your phone, into Outlook, on your white board, in your notebook, on your cube wall, or all of the above.  The more you see and refer to them the more progress you’ll make against them.
  • Use short term thinking.  Don’t get lured into believing you can predict the future and set goals for the upcoming year, or even the next six months.  What are the things I have to get done today, this week to make a difference.  The world is a dynamic place (even more so in crisis) so adjusting our goals and plans to be nearer term is just recognizing how the world is changing.    
  • Target 75% accomplishment.  If you err to 100% completion then you might feel really good about yourself temporarily, until you realize the most significant task you completed was cleaning out the break room fridge.  And completing only 50% of your goals makes you feel like shit too – so don’t be that hard on yourself.  Find the middle ground and you’ll be doing yourself and others a favor by feeling satisfied by your accomplishments but with enough room for improvement to keep you humble.  That’s the sweet spot. 

Practicing what I’ve just preached has been a daily struggle for me.  Easier said than done – for sure.  Those who I work with right now would likely characterize my days and weeks as full of ups and downs.  I’ve had days when I’ve managed to be goal-oriented, proactive and focused (Boom!). But on other days I’ve become unraveled by what’s unfolding, completely distracted and utterly reactionary. 

The struggle is real, but winning the fight more days than you lose sets a great example for your company. And it reinforces that a world-class, battle-tested HR team is worth its weight in gold. Not just in crisis, but always.