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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 8 years ago

Create a plan for behavior

Does your staff get anything out of setting annual goals? A behavior business plan may help create a more tangible plan of action to improve performance.
by: Denise Federer Bottom-line Behavior

The fourth quarter for most organizations is the time for review of the past year and the resetting of the budget and business goals for the next year. It is a necessary process that unfortunately many leaders have come to dread. A manager whom I coach recently told me that she feels that the entire process is a waste of time. She insists that many of her direct reports put very little effort into setting their new objectives and often “cut and paste” their goals from the previous year.

For those companies participating in this end-of-the-year ritual, the problem is that the emphasis is often primarily placed on establishing quantitative, rather than qualitative goals. Individuals are asked to define a percentage increase or decrease in financial, production, compliance or service outcome goals.

While employees may be asked to have input, they are often not encouraged to be creative or pay attention to how they will actually achieve these goals. Furthermore, the need for an employee to strengthen and develop those intellectual and emotional intelligence skills necessary for strategic thinking, being a collaborative team member or effectively negotiating are often overlooked in these plans.

To make organizational goal setting a more productive experience, there needs to be a shift from focusing on an outcome limited to “what” needs to be done, to including a qualitative process that addresses “how” it will be accomplished. In my consulting work with organizations, I have found that this later aspect is the most significant in producing successful results. Too often leaders erroneously assume that if they know how to easily achieve a goal, their employees do as well. That type of thinking can unintentionally close the door to transparent and productive conversation, which can ultimately lead to frustration or failure.

Create a behavioral business plan
Therefore, a leadership team needs to think in terms of guiding its employees to create a behavioral business plan that incorporates both the specific skills necessary for an individual to excel at their job and actionable steps he needs to take to achieve his goals. Creating a behavioral business plan involves four main steps.

You need to identify:
Your vision — what value you want to provide to your organization in the next year

Outcome goals — an accomplishment that can be measured or observed

Process goals — how to prepare for the steps; and

Behavioral action steps — the actions you will take.

It is essential for each action step to include a target date for completion.

After creating their strategy for accomplishing a goal, employees should get input from their direct supervisor to be sure that they are focused on the objectives of the company. These plans can then serve as a reference point for establishing priorities. It should naturally follow that your staff's daily activities should support accomplishing their goals.

The following is an example of a behavioral business plan created by John, a supervising attorney in the contracts department of a large national legal firm. There had recently been numerous client complaints about the timeliness of the service they received.

John identified his primary outcome goal to achieve 90% client satisfaction on contract-related matters.

His process goal was to provide an initial response to all contract matters within 14 business days after receipt of the client's contract intake form.

His behavioral action steps included the following:

Assigning the contract within one business day of receipt;

Asking a legal assistant to create a daily email reminder to attorneys seven days prior to the 14-day mark;

Meeting with assigned attorney(s) each week to discuss workload and pending items; and

Blocking off one hour each day on the calendar if a task is not complete five business days out.

Assess success
As a leader, holding your direct reports accountable for their behavioral plans is crucial to your team's success. If you find that an individual's daily activity is not helping him to accomplish your goal or he is avoiding certain actions, you need to have him revisit and adjust his plan. The key to creating a viable behavioral business plan is to identify relevant goals and ensure that the process is both transparent and flexible.

Behavioral Business Plan Template
Leadership Vision Statement - (what role do you want to play; what value do you want to provide):

Outcome Goal I - (something that can be measured or observed):

Process Goals - (how to prepare for the steps):

Specific Behavioral Action Steps and Target Date - (the “verb”, the action):

Denise P. Federer, Ph.D. is founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group. She has 27 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. Contact her at: [email protected]

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