The motivational benefits of goal setting

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12 Feb 2011
The Motivational Benefits of Goal-Setting
Applications of Goal-Setting Theory
- The psychological outcomes of setting and attaining high goals include enhanced task
interest, pride in performance, a heightened sense of personal effectiveness, and, in most
cases, many practical life benefits such as better jobs and higher pay
- Setting a specific high goal, on the other hand, makes explicit for people what needs to be
Causal Mechanisms
Why is goal setting effective?
- First, in committing to a goal, a person chooses to divert attention toward goal relevant
activities and away from goal irrelevant activities
- Second, goals energize people
- Third, goals affect persistence
- Fourth, goals motivate people to use the knowledge they have that will help them to
attain the goal or to discover the knowledge needed to do so
Conditions for Effectiveness
What conditions increase or decrease the benefits of goal setting?
- First, the person must have the ability and knowledge to attain the goal
- Second, the person must be committed to the goal, especially if the goal is difficult
o Making ones goal public enhances commitment because striving to attain it
enhances ones integrity in ones own eyes as well as in the eyes of others
o To the extent that a leader is supportive, goals that are assigned create µdemand
characteristics in that they are an implicit expression of the leaders confidence in
the person that the goal can and will be attained
o A vision provided by a leader that galvanizes and inspires people is likely to
increase goal commitment to the extent that the goal leads to concrete action steps
toward the attainment of the vision
o Monetary incentives can be tied to goals
- Third, people need feedback on their progress toward the goal
- Fourth, tasks that are complex for a person, where strategy and behavioural routines have
yet to be automatized, mitigate the normally positive effects of setting a specific high
o Training is one solution
o A second solution is to set a learning rather than an outcome goal
o A third solution is to set sub goals
- Fifth, situational constraints can make goal attainment difficult.
- A primary role of a leader is (1) to ensure that people have the resources to attain their
objectives and (2) to take the steps necessary to remove obstacles in the way of
accomplishing those objectives
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