People from all walks of life set goals. The actual numbers vary, depending on quoted or misquoted research. There’s no such data here, but it’s easy to imagine how many people feel the need to gain clarity about the future by setting goals. Or, sometimes goals are set just for the challenge of it. But, in reality, many people flounder or fail when setting goals because the goals, themselves, are too general or simple. And sometimes the individual is simply not committed enough to attain the goal. Then, there are times when goal completion can be unsatisfying because it’s too easy and fails to stretch the individual. The point is, people can easily lose the true value in setting and achieving goals. But, there’s another way: harness the power of three different types of goals.
One of the first steps to maximizing the value of goal attainment is to look at the different types that exist. According to Latham and Seijts’s Distinguished Scholar Essary: Similarities and Differences Among Performance, Behavioral, and Learning Goals (2016), “three types of goals are described: performance, behavioral, and learning,” all of which apply to individuals, teams, and organizations.
Performance goals are the kind that shows the outcome, desired result, or future state. In business, they often include things like revenue generation, cost reduction, cost per customer or acquisition, and the like. These can be the most obvious, yet difficult to achieve. Behavior goals are more operational in nature and describe the way business should be conducted. They demonstrate and measure the effectiveness of activity within a given period of time. Capacity utilization levels, the Net Promoter Score, website bounce rates on target landing pages, and conversion rates through the marketing or sales funnel are examples. And, last but certainly not least, are learning goals, which all about acquiring, building, or improving something like knowledge, a skill, or product when an individual has yet to master whatever is being acquired or built.
When looking at these different types of goals, it becomes easy to think about how to apply them to almost any skill. If you want to golf, then a learning goal is to learn how to grip and swing the club. A behavior goal is to have a consistent backswing and tempo, and a performance goal is to break 80. If you want to be a jazz musician, then learning goals could include learning how to play the instrument and understanding the idiom’s theory, harmony, and language. Behavior goals include comfortably playing through the changes of a given tune, and performance goals include making it through something like Giant Steps at 260 BPM without being kicked off the bandstand. In the business world, you may have a goal to:
There’s a natural flow to goals when you understand what types of goals exist. Since learning goals acquire or build something, behavior goals are about the individual, team, or organization’s effectiveness during a period of time, and performance goals are the outcome or desired result, the relationship looks something like this:
And, much like the difference between an abundance and scarcity mindset, this relationship can easily turn into a virtuous growth mindset, which increases self-efficacy and confidence. When confidence increases, you become more engaged in goal setting and attainment and, in turn, more open to possibility.
More to the point and also from Similarities and Differences Among Performance, Behavioral, and Learning Goals (2016), Latham and Seijts suggest, “Individuals with high self-efficacy engage in goal-directed behavior such as developing a plan or strategy, information search and testing potential relationships among variables more so than those with low self-efficacy.” Moreover, they continue: “Individuals with high self-efficacy reported more commitment to the learning goal than those with low self-efficacy.”
Again, when self-efficacy and confidence increase, you become more engaged in goal setting and attainment. The more you do this, the more open you become to possibility. It’s a virtuous growth cycle, especially if you can say yes to these four goal-setting questions.
If you start with a learning goal that builds or acquires something, then you will better understand how to effectively behave and perform at a higher level and increase the likelihood of achieving your future state. Continue the process and your confidence and engagement in goal attainment will increase, which puts you in a virtuous growth cycle. The more you overcome adversity, the easier it becomes to move beyond barriers or other challenges.
Here’s the big takeaway: the more you overcome adversity with higher self-confidence, the more you build positive resources. The more you build positive resources, the more you draw upon them to proactively cope with a situation, which enables you to control emotions while making decisions. You make better decisions and overcome adversity with greater ease. This is how you can use these three goals types—learning, behavior, and performance—to grow, personally and professionally.