When Employees Aren’t Reaching Their Goals

Employees aren’t machines, and you can’t always be sure that they’ll meet the goals you set for them. Why? Let's take a look!
scrabble tile with the word goal

When Employees Aren’t Reaching Their Goals

Are you in charge of making sure your employees meet their goals at your organization? Setting goals and meeting them are key factors of any successful business — unfortunately, however, while it sounds simple to set a goal and meet it on paper, the reality is a lot more complex. After all, employees aren’t machines, and you can’t always be sure that they’ll meet the goals you set for them.  

Why? The reasons vary. Sometimes the scope of the goal is too large, or the goal is too nebulous, or certain employees don’t have the skill sets required to accomplish the goals you set for them. But there’s also another, less obvious reason that might be preventing them from meeting their goals: your employees might have beliefs that stop them from achieving what they set out to do. 

Goals start with beliefs

When it comes to setting and meeting goals, something many leaders fail to account for are the beliefs their employees hold. That’s because it’s easy to think that beliefs about work aren’t as crucial as the work itself. In reality, however, the two are much more deeply entwined than many people believe. 

Beliefs about work impact how well we do the work assigned to us: if we think our jobs are doable and achievable, we’re more likely to tackle them with competence than if we think our work is difficult or frustrating. 

How do our attitudes and beliefs about work play out in real life?

Take, for example, a company with multiple locations across the nation. A manager at one location has a team that simply doesn’t perform as well as other teams at other locations. After conducting a survey, the manager found that their team believed the price of their product was too high to be competitive in the market. Unless they could bring down the price, the team didn’t believe they could sell the product as well as other branches.

While the team believed there was a price problem, other branches were selling the same product at the same price point — and sometimes, they were selling it at an even higher price! What’s more, other locations were operating in even tougher markets than the price-conscious team, but were still selling the product in greater quantities. 

The problem here wasn’t actually the price of the product itself, but rather what the team believed about its cost. Instead of coming up with new and inventive selling strategies, the team believed the price problem made it impossible to sell their product competitively. 

Once the team was able to dispense with the belief that cost was an issue, they could then move toward solutions that didn’t involve cost. The team developed a new marketing campaign, created new PR initiatives and focused on community networking — all of which helped them increase sales. 

This is just one example of how beliefs about work impact our ability to meet our goals. In the next example, we’ll explore why reprimanding workers for not meeting goals isn’t as effective as getting to the root problem of why those goals aren’t being met. 

Uncovering the root causes of poor performance 

You’ve probably seen this scenario play out before: a manager, tired and frustrated with employees who don’t seem to meet quarterly goals set for them, decides to reprimand his workers. In order to motivate them to perform their jobs more effectively, the manager dispenses with Friday happy hours and flexible lunch schedules. They insist that should their employees perform better next quarter, they might then “earn back” their previous benefits that were taken away. 

In short: the manager motivates their workforce through fear. It sounds dramatic when you put it that way, but that’s what’s happening — instead of actually discovering why their workers aren’t working efficiently, the manager is further inconveniencing their employees and creating a work environment that isn’t conducive to productivity. 

This in turn makes their employees believe (remember what we said about beliefs earlier!) that they’re operating in a hostile work environment, and as a result, they are even less inspired to perform well than before. 

So: not only has the manager not solved the problem, but they’ve also created a work environment that’s even less productive than it was before. This is clearly not good, but it happens all the time in organizations everywhere.

What’s the solution in a scenario like this? Instead of reprimanding workers for not meeting goals, managers need to get down to the root causes and beliefs that prevent workers from achieving their goals in the first place. 

In this specific example, the root of the problem is that the workers don’t have the skills needed to complete their work within deadlines management has created for them. If they had better training, they could probably meet their deadlines without any issues — while still having Friday happy hours and unregulated lunch schedules. 

In this case, instead of reprimanding employees for not having certain skills (which solves nothing), management could instead train their workforce to develop the skills they need to complete work within the allotted timeline. This could be anything from training employees how to develop time management skills, multitasking capabilities or other qualifications.

The point is, without looking at the root causes of inefficiency, managers can actually cause more harm than good by further inconveniencing their workforce. And nobody (least of all you) wants that!

Managing beliefs in addition to performance

Being a leader is a little bit like being an investigator: you need to poke around and learn as much as you can about a situation before attributing a “cause” to unwanted behavior. Then, when you know why something is happening — and that “why” is belief-related — you can start to prescribe solutions that actually help you achieve what you want. 

If you think this sort of results-oriented thinking is valuable, it might be worth investing in coaching opportunities that can unlock the rest of your leadership potential. Check us out and let us know if we can help you inspire your team, revolutionize your workforce and get the organizational results you want.

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