Are Well-Defined Goals Sufficient For Lasting Success?

Setting and tracking defined goals is important to success. But, is it enough?

As a leader out to meet financial and other growth targets, it helps to have goals that guide you towards success. Measuring progress and taking corrective action as needed, becomes easier as well.

But without specifying the behaviors needed for the goals, you may end up creating a toxic culture and a terrible workforce experience (Wx)

What are the dangers of not defining clear behaviors?

Consider the case of a software developer. They would have a certain number of lines of code to write per day as a target. But unless you reinforce the behaviors that support the target, they might just end up being confused and misaligned with your direction.

They may only prioritize the target at all costs, ignoring the need to work collaboratively, ethically, and in a customer-focused manner.

The Wx takes a major hit when people are not clear on behaviors that are sustainable. For example, a salesperson may be tempted to overpromise to a customer to meet the targets for this year. Long-term orientation and thinking of the future of the company might be put in jeopardy by this.

And of course, when people are called out for such derailing behaviors, they are likely to become bitter and resentful.

The risk of unethical behavior increases as well. Unless clear norms are established, people may inadvertently violate anti-bribery guidelines and laws, especially in locations where laws are laxer. For example, gifts above a certain value or unrelated to the business of the company may be interpreted as bribes or attempts to influence key decisions.

This poses a massive risk to your company’s brand and reputation. In fact, it could also bring about lawsuits and the threat of legal action.

For example, an employee dealing with a healthcare client may end up talking about another client and share data that is confidential. While this may not be illegal in some countries, it could cause a huge problem in others. Also, it would dent your company’s credibility for sure.

What can you do?

The dangers of derailing behaviors can jeopardize the way your company runs. Customers may feel confused, employees may feel confused, and collaboration may become a thing of the past. But, you can address this need with some careful thought:

1. Identify behaviors: Use a tool such as The TMA Method to identify the behaviors or behavioral competencies that you value.

2. Define the proficiency needed: At each level in the company hierarchy, the meaning of each behavior may differ. For example, ‘accountability’ could mean slightly different things for an individual contributor versus for a leader.

3. Communicate: Repeatedly reiterate each behavior and provide feedback. When you see the right behaviors being displayed, provide recognition. Otherwise, provide constructive feedback and use such situations as learning opportunities.

4. Be specific: When encouraging or discouraging any behavior, be specific about the reason for the recognition or call out. This helps people in staying aligned with the right set of behaviors and maintain a positive Wx.

Toxic behaviors can severely undermine trust. For example, an Indian startup GoMechanic, was on a quest to raise venture capital. So, they seem to have decided to show far more revenue than what existed. The bubble burst and they are now having to reduce the workforce by 70%, along with other legal and business challenges.

Examples like Enron and Theranos are fairly common. But the fact that all these companies are defunct or close to being defunct is an important lesson.


As a leader, you must set challenging goals. But unless you define the behaviors that will get you there, you will fail. It is like using a map –just marking the origin and destination doesn’t help, unless you also talk about the ‘how’.

To create a Wx that stays away from running red lights or driving over people to get to your destination, reach out to us at [email protected].

About the Author

Sam Reeve
Sam Reeve, CompTeam founder and managing consultant, is a pay and talent performance expert and a certified global compensation professional. His extensive experience with pay programs and competitive compensation analysis, career architecture, and talent management allows him to help clients of rapidly growing firms see accurate, measurable results, including increased productivity and significant pay savings, year-over-year.
As an innovative thinker with practical application, Sam strongly believes that everyone needs to be healthy and happy in their own lives to strive as a high-performing contributor. He is driven to help organizations match their employees with the work they are passionate about and reward their people for outstanding work.
Sumit Single
Sumit has been working in HR & HR consulting roles for 16+ years across sectors and verticals and specializes in organizational design, well-being, storytelling & design thinking, and performance management. In his career with consulting firms such as Aon, Deloitte, and Accenture, he has successfully led programs aimed at total HR transformation for clients.
As Associate Director for India Consulting at Deloitte, he recently worked with clients on cultural transformation, HR processes, and policy design. He also organized and spoke at conferences and events about various topics relevant to HR today.
Now self-employed, he works with clients across the globe on various HR solution areas.
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