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Does Goal Setting Really Improve Performance? Ask Science.


There you are, sitting at the team meeting at the beginning of the month.

What goals should you set for the new month?

And… does it really help? I mean, after so many months (and years) of goal setting, so many seminars, and books that say you should set goals -- does it really matter if you set goals for this month?

And what kind of goals?

And, does your team really care?

And, do you? (lol)

Well, here’s the deal: YES, goals do matter.

Here’s some evidence from a study by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, who summarized 35 years of empirical research on goal setting theory*. They found that setting specific and challenging goals led to significantly higher levels of task performance than easy goals or no goals at all. They found that goals:

  1. Direct activities towards goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities.

  2. Can be motivational or “energizing.”

  3. Affect persistence.

  4. Encourage people to use the knowledge they have acquired.

But goal setting is affected or moderated by many factors. For example, Locke and Latham found that feedback and commitment to goals were critical for goal attainment.


You and your team need to know how you did last month. You all need to know if you are heading toward your mission or away from it.

The clinic director or manager should individually meet with each team member and review how they did. This should be done in a friendly and collaborative manner, ideally each month.

The idea of employees being a TEAM also necessitates the concept of a COACH. So, the clinic director or manager must act as a coach and help individuals, and everyone achieve goals.


According to the Study, goal commitment is linked to the importance of the goal. In my experience, this is improved by:

  1. Examining the mission or why of the practice.

  2. Reviewing patient successes and outcomes.

  3. Allowing team members to participate in goal setting so that it is their goal, not management’s!

  4. An occasional group goal and game, with a deadline that may include a reward.

As part of the Goal Driven System, we emphasize 3 categories of goals:

  1. Production. These are usually monthly goals such as new patients, visits, kept appointment percentage, and case completions.

  2. Organization. These are important but not urgent goals, including training, catching up on backlogs, planning, and other activities. Because these are not always apparent, vital functions can become neglected. A checklist of duties helps with this, and then reviewing them monthly.

  3. Greater Goals: professional and personal. No one works just for production or organization, so setting goals for long-term achievements is essential. We aren’t just workers -- we are dreamers and explorers. We like to adventure, and we like to play.

Goals are part of games, and games should be fun. We humans like games, from the Olympics to the most recent popular computer game. It is part of our nature.

My grandson just had his 7th birthday. He’s a big basketball fan. I gave him a couple of presents. The first one he opened and quickly tossed aside. The second present was a large book with photo’s of basketball players and their stories. As soon as the wrapping paper was off, he raised it over his head, cheering: “for the win.” And ran off with it like the wild boy he is!

So set goals and play the game.

Keep it fun and go FOR THE WIN!



If your practice building efforts aren’t taking you to your goals,

there are reasons -- many of which are hidden from you.

Find out what they are and how to sail to your next level by getting and implementing my new book, The Goal Driven Business.

The Goal Driven Business By Edward Petty

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