The importance of personal challenges when setting targets and objectives

Anthony Douglas

Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions but this year was different. I had three mountains to climb in the first few months of 2018. The first was to get through our national Ofsted inspection, our first in four years. The second was to secure a manageable budget for Cafcass for 2018/19, as we were already under massive pressure as a result of our rising caseload, especially in private law. And the third mountain was literally a mountain, in Nepal, which I was committed to climbing in April for a charity I support.

As summer approaches, I can look back with pride that we achieved the strongest possible result in our Ofsted inspection, we have a decent budget for 2018/19 thanks to support from the Ministry of Justice – and I climbed that mountain despite being worried with good reason that I had not trained enough.

The combined experience of those few months made me realise the importance of personal challenges. Two of my three challenges were already in my targets and formal objectives for the first three months of the year, but I brought an extra energy to all three tasks when I thought of them as personal challenges that simply had to be overcome. It felt to me as if my life and career depended on achieving them, or I made myself feel like that for some reason. Whatever it was, I was determined to succeed whereas with bureaucratic targets and objectives, there can be a sense that some may be achieved and others may not be for reasons that can be explained away. Often more energy goes into setting the target than worrying what happens to it subsequently.

My simple conclusion is that use of personal challenges in performance management with staff and with parents in relation to changes that have got to be made for their children, may gain a greater meaning, ownership, energy level and commitment than targets or recommendations in performance documents or for that matter, in court reports.

I am now setting myself two new challenges, to be identified by the end of June and to be delivered by the end of the calendar year. Inevitably they will be a mixture of challenges in and outside of work. I am now drumming up the energy level to set them, if I could just get rid of this persistent and lingering chest infection…




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