Setting Goals for Professional Growth
by Joey Feith
These are the show notes for my latest episode of The #PhysEd Show Podcast. Speaking of which, I know it’s been a while since my last podcast episode but I’m really excited to be back in the booth building content that will help inspire your teaching and impact your professional growth. One of my goals for 2020 is to publish this show on a much more consistent basis. Considering I didn’t release a single episode of this podcast in 2019, the bar is set pretty low here so I’m feeling pretty confident that I can do this. Time will tell!
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Today’s episode focuses on how to set effective, measurable goals that will drive your professional development.
With the new year officially here, it’s pretty common for teachers to say “I’m gonna be better at X” as they seek to grow as educators. The thing is, setting goals or resolutions that are only outcomes-based doesn’t always guarantee results. As James Clear says in his book “Atomic Habits”, we need to set effective systems in place that support us as we work towards achieving our desired outcomes or goals.
So in today’s episode, I’m going to be going over a system called OKRs that I use in own planning and goal-setting, both in my professional life and personal life. I’ll be breaking the OKR system down into its parts for you and then I’ll show you what it looks like in action by using one of my own teaching goals for 2020.
Sound good? Alright, let’s get into it!
OKRs: Designing Roadmaps To Success
So the reason I want to dive into OKRs with you is that I’ve experienced first-hand just how effective they can be in driving growth and achieving results. As opposed to resolution statements or SMART goals, OKRs provide you with a roadmap that can help you get to where you want to be in regards to your professional development. The system achieves this by essentially having you backwards design from your objective. That said, what I really like about OKRs is how they allow you to measure your progress and how they encourage you to set really lofty goals. The measurement piece here is important since it gives you data that you can use to help guide your reflection and then move forward with new, evidence-based goals.
Ok, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. You’re probably wondering what the heck OKRs are anyway. Let’s go back a bit:
OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results. The system was popularized by venture capitalist John Doerr while he was at Google. Doerr actually learned about OKRs while he worked under Andy Grove at Intel in the late 70s. Today, hundreds if not thousands of organizations around the world – including the Gates Foundation – use OKRs to help drive growth and fulfill their missions.
So think about OKRs as being a layered system. At the top is your objective: the “what” of what you’re trying to achieve.
An objective expresses your goal or intent. As the top level of the system, objectives are meant to be aggressive yet realistic. Achieving 70-80% of your objective is the sweet spot you’re aiming for since it means that your goal wasn’t too hard and caused you to fail miserably. It also means that your goal wasn’t too easy and allowed you to stay in your comfort zone. It was that goldilocks level of just the right amount of challenge for where you’re currently at.
Now, according to Google’s OKR playbook, objectives should be tangible, objective, and unambiguous. If you’re going to say that you did or did not achieve your objective, that result should be obvious to anyone you are sharing it with.
The second layer of the OKR system is your key results. Key results are the measurable milestones that you’ve identified that will essentially break down the objective you have set. Key results should be written in language that describes an outcome, not an activity. For example, if a track athlete sets the objective “Win the 400m Race”, a weak example of a key result would be “run faster than the other athletes”. Stronger examples of key results for that objective could include anything from “Decrease 400m race time by 2 seconds” or “Complete speed training three times a week”.
The golden number for an objective’s key results is between 3-5. Personally, I like setting three challenging key results for an objective, but I guess that really depends on the size of the objective I’ve set. Setting more than 5 key results means that you’re going to be tracking a lot of variables which is fine if you’re working in a team and can delegate some of this tracking… but it becomes a lot when you’re going at it solo.
Also, your key results should follow the SMART principle. In other words, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. The emphasis here is really on the measurable piece, as you will score your key results over time.
Before I get into the scoring piece, I want to share with you the third layer of the OKR system. This isn’t exactly officially part of Doerr’s OKR framework, it’s really something I added after years of implementing David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology in my own life. The third layer that I’ve added to OKRs is Action Items.
Action Items break down your Key Results down into a list of things you’ll need to do in order to achieve those results! They’re the ground-level, single-action items that you can tackle over time. Personally, I write up all of my action items into my project management app of choice – Things 3 – so that I can schedule and track them as I work towards the results I’ve identified.
Once you’ve done all of this front-loading and planning work, you’re ready to get to business. As the timeframe you set for your objective wraps up, you get to look back at each key result and – based on its measurable evidence – score each one. Doerr suggests that you score your key results from zero to one, with zero meaning that you achieved absolutely nothing and one meaning that the result was fully realized.
For example, let’s imagine that your objective is to learn more about how to use tech in PhysEd and you set a key result that states that you will read 10 articles on best practices. If by the end of your OKR cycle you’ve read 7 articles, then you would score that key result with a .7.
Once all of your key results are scored, you average out the results and that gives you your overall score for your objective. Again, your goal here is to score between 0.7-0.8 overall which will mean that the objective you set really stretched you by having you work outside of your current comfort levels.
Ok, so that was all pretty technical. Lemme show what this all looks like in action by sharing one of my OKRs for 2020 with ya.
OKRs In The Wild
One of my objectives for 2020 is to improve my physical education program’s advocacy efforts within the parent community at my school. Basically, I want to get parents educated on and engaged with the PE program at St. George’s.
To reach this objective, I’ve set the following three key results:
- Publish four PE newsletters by April 30th 2020.
- Host three “PE Nights” by April 30th 2020.
- Host one “Healthy School Community” information session by February 28th 2020.
Now, if I stopped there, I’d probably wind up procrastinating a bunch and would most likely fail to some degree in regards to achieving those key results. The reason I say that is because I haven’t yet identified the next action steps that will help me make those key results a reality. This is where the Action Items layer that I’ve based on the Getting Things Done methodology’s idea of next actions becomes so important. By treating each key result as its own project and listing all of the things I need to do in order to complete it, I will have designed a roadmap to success.
For that first key result – publishing four PE newsletters by April 30th – there are a bunch of things I’ll need to get done.
First I’ll need to create a MailChimp account for my school’s PE program. I’ve been using MailChimp for years and I love its interface. The newsletter won’t get a ton of subscribers since we’re a small school, so I can get by with the platform’s free version.
Once I have my account set up, I’ll design a template for my newsletter which will speed up production and reduce some of the friction between my intentions and my actions here. I say this as a guy who launched a podcast in 2018 and didn’t publish a single episode of said podcast in 2019…
With the template done, I’ll then create a content calendar for the newsletter. I’ll most likely keeps this monthly and will want to include some updates and shots from my lessons. Having a content calendar set up with some other ideas lined up will help keep me mindful of collecting things to share in the newsletter.
Then I will need to email the newsletter signup form to the parent community. That email will need to include information on why I’m starting a newsletter, what parents can expect to find in a monthly PE newsletter, and how parents can sign up for it.
Ok, one more thing I tend to do when I start repeating projects like a newsletter is to create a project template. Basically, this is like a cookbook that I can follow to ensure that I don’t forget to do anything as I rush to get content out. I’ll keep this template in my Things app and duplicate it each time I get ready to edit a new edition of the newsletter.
With all of that groundwork done, all that will be left will be to edit and publish each edition of the newsletter. I’m sure that other tasks will pop up along the way, but this seems like a pretty solid action item list that will give me the confidence to get started on moving things forward here.
Here’s a screenshot of my Things project that shows you how I organize all of these tasks within the app:
Ok, so let’s go back:
Imagine if I just said that my resolution was to be a better advocate for my program. Or if I said that my goal was to roll out three advocacy initiatives by June 2020. The second example is a little clearer than the first, but neither of these actually helps me know exactly what needs to be done, how to measure success, and how to ensure that everything I do is aligned to a larger objective.
With OKRs you get all of that and you get to feel confident throughout the entire process. Yes, it’s a ton of work upfront, but trust me when I tell you that OKRs save you so much time in the long run.
That being said, you won’t really know until you try it out for yourself, so here’s my challenge for you:
Whatever your objectives are for this year, this term, or this month, try using the OKR system to map it all out. Break that objective down into key results and then list all of the action items you can think of that will help you reach those results. Once you’ve done all this work, feel free to share a screenshot of your OKR roadmap on Twitter. Tag me in your tweet using my @phys_educator and I’ll add you to a random draw for a free download of my SMART Goals Fitness Teacher Pack at the end of January.
Here are a few additional resources that I thought you might like to check out if you’re interested in adopting the OKR system in your life.
How Google Sets Goals: OKRs
This video was the first time I was introduced to OKRs. In it, Rick Klau, a senior operating partner at Google Ventures, breaks down OKRs to the team at GV using John Doerr’s original OKR deck. It’s a long video, but it’s shorter than reading a whole book on OKRs!
Why The Secret To Success Is Setting The Right Goals
John Doerr delivered a TED Talk last year as part of his book promotion tour. In the talk, he goes over the history and system behind OKRs and provides some examples of how OKRs are being used by organizations around the world.
Atomic Habits by James Clear | Core Message
If you don’t have time to read Atomic Habits because you’re too busy planning your OKRs for this term, here is a quick video overview that will provide you with some of the main ideas and messages from the book.
Stress-Free Productivity: Getting Things Done
Same thing as above: here’s a video overview of the Getting Things Done (GTD) system. There are a TON of resources online that will break GTD down for you, but this is a good starting point.
Thanks For Sharing!
Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of The #PhysEd Show. I hope you go out and crush your goals for 2020! Be sure to keep me posted on your progress over on Twitter.
If you enjoyed this episode, please take a second right now to go rate the show. Sharing it out on your favourite social networks also helps a ton.
Have an awesome week! Happy Teaching. 💪
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