Feel the Power of a Well-phrased Goal Share:

Steve Williamson, Sr. Project Manager, eRep, Inc.
Monday, September 10, 2018

eRep's Performance Fuel application empowers teams to achieve new levels of individual and group performance. It does this by following the Performance Fuel formula of Clarity + Purpose + Feedback. Employees get clarity by knowing what they are to achieve without ambiguity. They are imbued with a sense of purpose by knowing that what they do is valuable and is appreciated. Tying it all together is a system of efficient and focused feedback from their supervisor or coach, giving them the information they need in a timely manner.

The individual gets what they need to thrive, and team leaders get the objective data they need to manage staff effectively.

One of the key functional components of eRep's Performance Fuel system is the Kaizen principle that those who do the work are best able to understand what needs to be done to improve it. By this principle, individuals define and achieve their own short- and long-term goals and objectives.

As more and more employers are signing up for eRep's Performance Fuel application, one of the questions their employees ask most often is...

"What is the best way to phrase my short-term objectives and long-term goals?"

Everyone wants to get things done, but it can be challenging to choose and phrase objectives in a way that makes them more likely to be accomplished.

Even if your organization is not a Performance Fuel subscriber, this article will provide you with useful tips to set achievable, measurable goals.

Let's get started!

Words Matter

What is the difference between 'should' and 'will'? Give these two words consideration when setting objectives. You obviously intend to reach an outcome, but if you start by phrasing it with "I should ..." you are inserting implicit wiggle room and an assumption that success is not a sure thing. More constructively, if you phrase your objective with the affirmative, "I will ..." things begin with an assumption of success.

Short-term objectives can be easier to define than long-term goals, but both benefit from the same general rules. Be specific, choose singular rather than compound objectives, and include measurable outcomes.

Here are some examples of short-term objectives that violate these guidelines, with examples of how to phrase them more effectively:

Bad example: I should lose weight and get healthier.

Good example: I will lose 5 pounds by the end of the month.

Do you see the differences? In the first example, we use the word should instead of will, which is aspirational but not affirmative. The bad example also doesn't include a specific measurable outcome. Finally, it is a compound objective; watch out for the word 'and' in your objective statements and separate them out into separate goals.

The good example gets bonus points because it includes a due date.

Open-ended objectives are less likely to be accomplished.

Here's another example:

Bad: I need to improve my Python coding skills.

Better: I will take classes in Python to improve my coding skills.

Best: I will improve my Python coding skills by attending two semesters of Python coding classes, achieving an 80% or better score on final exams.

The individual is seeking to become a better Python programmer. That's great! However, the first [bad] example is very vague and has no measurable outcomes. Further, the use of the word 'need' can impose preemptive guilt, almost as if the individual is avoiding punishment.

The better example uses the more affirmative will, which sets a positive tone. It also mentions a more specific action item of "take classes," although it falls short in some key areas. It fails to state how many classes will be attended, it doesn't list a deadline for when they'll be completed, and it doesn't list an outcome that can be measured against a predefined standard.

The third and best example is affirmative ("I will"), it is specific ("two semesters of Python coding classes"), and it is measurable ("80% or better score on final exams.")

Don't Lose Control

One of the traps we see people fall into is setting objectives that rely on forces or circumstances outside of their control. Your objectives should have a reasonable chance of success and be entirely within your ability to achieve.

A common example of this is setting objectives that rely on the performance or participation of others. For example, setting a goal of, "I will organize and lead a meeting of the Finance committee by end-of-week" is affirmative, specific and measurable, but it relies on the attendance and participation of at least one other person. Someone calling in sick is all it takes for your objective to fail, which would be entirely out of your control.

Positivity Matters

Phrase things in the positive whenever possible. This goes back to our previous advice that words matter. Many objectives can be phrased in either a negative or a positive way, and which phrasing you choose can set the tone. Most people respond better to objectives using positive words and outcomes and this can improve your odds of achieving success.

By way of example, there is an emotional difference between stating "I will stop eating junk food for lunch" and "I will eat at least two or more salads for lunch each week." The former keeps your focus on the bad thing (junk food) and the implied guilt you likely feel for that behavior, while the latter swings your focus over to the positive and gives you something to strive for that you can feel good about.

Choose and Use a System

One of the most powerful pieces of advice we can give to those wishing to be more effective at setting and achieving their goals is to choose and use a system. eRep's Performance Fuel application uses a structured yet flexible method of letting individuals set their own short-term objectives and long-term goals, set due dates, and get valuable targeted and structured feedback from a coach or supervisor.

Although we are partial to Performance Fuel for obvious reasons, if that is not yet an option where you work, manual individual goal management tools and methods can be used. Even something as simple as putting your objective on a sticky note next to your computer screen can be helpful if it is phrased appropriately according to the advice in this article.

If you begin setting and defining your short-term objectives and long-term goals using the advice we've presented here, you will see measurable improvements and success almost immediately.

If you are interested in learning more about Performance Fuel by eRep, contact us today at You can also read about Performance Fuel on our Employer's page.

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Feel the Power of a Well-phrased Goal

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Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson

Innovator/Banker - Sr. Project Manager, eRep, Inc.

Steve has a career in information technology and software development spanning nearly three decades. He is the author of a trilogy of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles, and when he isn't writing he enjoys motorcycle adventure touring and buzzing around the skies in his home-built flight simulator.