Setting Objectives With Your Manager
Setting objectives with your manager can be an easy process if you have prepared well or it can be a real challenge if you have not. In this article, I take you through 5 steps to prepare for your objectives meeting and 5 tips on how to manage the objectives meeting itself.
I have always felt it better to propose a list of objectives to your manager rather than wait for them to give you a list of objectives. I will explain why as we go through the steps.
Setting Objectives With Your Manager:
5 steps to prepare for the objectives meeting:
- Find out team or manager’s objectives and goals
- Create the objectives you want to deliver
- Plan how to reach those objectives (outline plan)
- List out the assumptions made (to negotiate with)
- Build in personal development goals
5 tips on managing your objectives meeting
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5 preparation steps for setting objectives with your manager
Find out team or manager’s objectives and goals – the first step when setting objectives with your manager
You need your objectives and those of your team to align with your manager’s objectives, or at least those that you or your team will be involved in delivering. Your objectives must help you manager achieve theirs if you want yours to be approved.
Ask for a copy of your manager’s objectives or the ones that you and your team will be helping to deliver. If these are not available, then look at the company or business unit strategy or if you are in a larger business, the function’s or department’s objectives.
Before starting to write you own objectives or those for your team, you need to understand the direction you and your team will need to travel to fit into the goals and objectives of the wider team.
While planning your objectives focus on what you can control or are responsible for. Try to avoid giving yourself objectives for areas that you can’t influence or have little influence over. This helps manage expectations.
Separate out your own personal objectives and team objectives. As manager of a team, you will be responsible for achieving all the objectives. I always found it useful to keep clear in my mind which I would be achieving through my team and which I had to do personally.
The second step when setting objectives with your manager: Create the objectives you want to deliver
There are a lot of objectives and goals you could choose. So use your judgement, in conjunction with your manager’s objectives and factor in what you want to achieve with the team to decide which objectives you are going to put forward.
Some of you may be thinking, surely it is easier just to ask my manager to tell me what objectives they want me to do for the year ahead. This is an option. Three reasons I think it better to propose a list of objectives are:
- You are being proactive and solving a problem for your manager. 95%+ of managers will thank you for this approach.
- You have more control of your objectives and the level of your goals, if you are in the driving seat.
- If you don’t do the preparation, you won’t be able to negotiate well, which could leave you with unrealistic goals.
I always preferred to be prepared so choose which objectives to put forward.
Plan how to reach those objectives (outline plan) – the third step when setting objectives with your manager
Having goals is great if you have got a reasonable plan of how to get there. With a plan, you know
- the activities you need to undertake
- the resources you need to undertake them
- whether the outcomes or goals are reasonable
Would you want to sign up to objectives and goals without any idea of how to achieve them? I didn’t like doing so and I haven’t come across many managers that do.
Don’t go to town on planning at this stage but do have a rough idea of the activities and resources needed for each objective you choose.
The fourth step when setting objectives with your boss: List out the assumptions made (to negotiate with)
This is a super important step and helps massively with later negotiations. I once saw a country manager get signoff for a 20% drop in his budget against expectations of 10% growth because he prepared his assumptions really well. His manager didn’t have much of a leg to stand on once they have gone through all the assumptions in detail.
So go through each of your assumptions in your rough plan. Think internally and externally to your company. What are the key assumptions and which are secondary and less important.
Build in personal development goals – the last step in preparing setting objectives with your manager
What do you personally what to achieve in the next year plus for your career? How could your manager and the business help you achieve this? Examples might include:
- Would a mentor from another part of the business help?
- Taking courses for technical and soft skills help?
- What projects would build on your CV and will be available within the business?
- What is your manager currently doing that you could take on?
- What should be on your reading list or research list for YouTube?
Find out the options for developing your career and skills within the business and externally from the business and put together a personal development plan with the actions you are going to take.
With this preparation completed, you are ready to book in the objectives meeting with your manager.
5 tips to manage the objectives meeting to your advantage
Ask how the manager would like to run the meeting
Listen carefully to their response. Hopefully, they will ask for you to put forward your proposals early in the meeting. If not, say that you have thought about your objectives and have a number that you would like to propose. Ask if you can put these forward at the start of the meeting so that you can get your manager’s feedback.
Present your objective proposals to your manager
Explain how and why they align with the manager’s objectives or the stated company goals, etc. Make sure that you link your objectives to the bigger picture. This significantly increases the chances of them being accepted.
Ask your manager for feedback and input
This is explicitly giving your manager permission to suggest changes to what you have put forward, disagree or agree. It is really important that you take the time to listen carefully, take in what is being said and come back with clarifying questions. Only when you understand the manager’s position should you think about negotiating if this is needed.
Setting objectives should be a two way conversation and your must let your manager input and make changes. This is usually much better for you than having your manager set objectives for you from scratch.
Do this where your manager has discarded objectives that you feel are important, has set goals that are too stretching or changed objectives in a way that doesn’t make sense to you. This is where your work on your assumptions will really come into its own. Push the conversation to the assumptions when you are negotiating. If for instance resources are an issue, ask for more. If your manager doesn’t agree with your assumptions, then ask why and discuss.
Make sure that your final objectives are specific. Ensure that you and your manager are clear about how you are going to measure and thus know when you have achieved your goals.
Write up the final version
When the meeting is finished, then make sure you write up the final version of your objectives, even if this has not been asked for by your manager. You need a written copy of the final objectives to send to your manager and refer to as you work towards meeting your objectives. If it is not written down and shared, then there is the danger of the goal posts moving because you both has different recollections of your final objectives and goals.
So there you have 5 tried and tested steps to prepare for setting objectives with your manager and 5 tips of how to run or manage the meeting to get the best outcome for you.
Most managers really appreciate their direct reports doing most of the heavy lifting when coming up with good measurable objectives that are align to their own. This gives you a great way to take the driving seat and get objectives that work for you too.