Why are phone numbers structured in chunks? Because the human brain remembers groups of three or four at best. Try to memorize a string of numbers and you will inevitably forget one or two. The same is true for setting goals.
Setting goals is one of the more challenging tasks that leaders face--Google has even created an entire school of thought around the process. But while keeping employees engaged and motivated to achieve Key Results can be complicated in practice, the key to success is keeping it simple. Whether you use the term, goal, objective, or priority, these should always be defined by a deliverable outcome. We recommend the word Key Results.
In other words, every goal, objective, or priority should have a "Key Result to be achieved" associated with it.
Keep It Short, Keep It Clear
When employees feel that they are working day in and day out with little knowledge of the organization's greater goals, the results are predictable: they become frustrated, feel defeated, and disengage from their work. These employees have already resigned--they just haven't told anybody.
One way to forge a clearer path forward for employees is to define the number of Key Results they're expected to work towards at any given time. Establish two to five specific, actionable Key Results for each employee and team, providing realistic expectations for when these should be achieved and thoughtful explanations of why they are important to the organization at large. When employees feel that they're actively pushing the organization forward, they'll be more motivated, understanding that they are contributing to the bigger picture rather than robotically completing their individual tasks each day.
Regularly tracking progress towards Key Results is also a great way to establish transparency and reward engagement. When employees see they are making headway, the Key Results become more attainable, which in turn improves morale. That said, make sure you're not micromanaging -- people work at different paces and shouldn't be held to rigid, numbers-driven standards of productivity.
Create Joint Accountability
When management presents too many disparate Key Results for employees to work towards, workers tend to stay in their lanes and only focus on the targets that they have the most influence over. Unfortunately, those goals may not be the ones that deliver the right Key Results to the company as a whole.
That's why it's important for leaders to establish joint accountability: the idea that every single person in a company is responsible for how the company fares. In order for joint accountability to work, you need to break down silos, open up channels of communication, and establish a clearly defined, shared objective. If every single person in a company -- from the janitor to the CEO--feels invested in the company's mission and Key Results, you'll see employee engagement and productivity skyrocket.