How to Set Meaningful Performance Goals: Do, Not Be

This month’s blog article, featured in the Careers In Government January Newsletter, provides a few tips for setting goals with employees.

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Are you a finisher?   Do you love the feel of completing a task and checking it off your list?   Goal completion is a strong human motivator.  Yet, writing significant goals that have a positive impact on the work environment can be tough. Here’s a framework to consider the next time you begin to draft performance goals for yourself or an employee.

Goals fall into two categories:   ‘be’ goals and ‘do’ goals.

Be goals are goals that define an expectation for how the employee is to act. Goals that describe how we want the employee to ‘be’ are behavioral. Examples of ‘be’ goals include:

  • Provide helpful customer service to each citizen who comes to the counter.
  • Arrive to work by 8:00 a.m. each morning.
  • Wear your personal protective equipment at all times on the jobsite.

Because ‘be’ goals describe how you want the person to behave, they are on-going and often very difficult to measure. When you describe how you expect an employee to perform the work the outcome is often a general description of your expectations. Be goals usually are also expressed in your policies, procedures, and other documentation. Generally ‘be’ goals apply to anyone in the job, rather than to a specific individual. As a result, they are usually not very exciting.


Instead of developing ‘be’ goals, focus on writing ‘do’ goals.
  Do goals define specific outcomes and are easily measured. Do goals can be observed and establish a clear path for the employee to follow. Examples of ‘do’ goals are:

  • Conduct all required preventive maintenance activities on the ABC pump each month and document the completion of the work in the monthly log.
  • Research available electronic payment systems and write a report on your findings, including recommendations for moving forward by April 30.
  • Write a procedure manual for the establishment of new clients and present it to the team for approval by August 15.

While ‘be’ goals can be developed as specific, measurable, and time-focused, they are often so general that they do not challenge the employee to complete something tangible. To more fully motivate employees with your goal-setting process, focus on drafting ‘do’ goals that challenge them to produce a concrete result.

You can find a complete discussion of goal setting as part of the performance evaluation process in my book, Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day-to-Day Employee Performance.

Read the original   How to Set Meaningful Performance Goals: Do, Not Be article and our other featured article, Is Public Sector Employment Tarnished? on the Careers In Government Website.

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