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  • Writer's pictureHeather Belbin

When senior leadership goes rogue.

Are your senior leaders not working towards common goals? Your performance objective and bonus structure might be to blame.

Everyone likes performance bonuses, and in my experience, the higher up you on an org chart, the bonus-related motivation gets stronger. Bonuses are paid based on some kind of metrics, ideally tied to performance objectives.


  • But where are these objectives coming from?

  • When was the last time they were adjusted?

  • How can you be sure that they won’t result in managers setting goals for their teams that don’t support, or worse, compete with the objectives of the organization?

Performance objectives are only useful if they align with the goals of the organization. Objectives that are not aligned with the goals of the company feeds inefficiency and chaos - especially when tied to a bonus structure.

The gold standard is the SMART objective:






People seem to struggle most with the R - Relevant. How can you ensure an objective is relevant?

If you are having employees create their own SMART goals without them having visibility to the goals of their manager, their manager’s manager, right up to the CEO, it would be a miracle if the majority of them actually align with what the company is trying to do.

There needs to be accountability that goes beyond having something, anything in the system by a certain date. It doesn’t make sense to employ a workforce, motivate them to meet their goals with a bonus, but not be crystal clear about what those goals are.

You need to align, either from the bottom up or from the top down. A free-for-all is not an acceptable approach. I’m making the case here for top-down cascading, but if bottom-up alignment works for your org, great. For companies who have not used any real alignment before, top-down cascading is likely an easier approach to start with.

How it works: A step-by-step process

If it's that simple, why don't more companies do it?

There are a plethora of excuses. Click the arrows to expand.

"The CEO shouldn't be expected to input things into the HR system."
"The entire senior management team is already aligned."
"This looks like a lot of work for HR."
"People won't be on board with this."
"How much is this going to cost us in bonuses?"
What does this have to do with change management? Everything.

If your org is planning some kind of change, you need all levels to be on board, and this is one of the ways to do it.

The success of that change should be in the CEOs goals.

The senior leader sponsoring the change should have this reflected and incentivized in their objectives.

  • I've noticed that even then most passive sponsors suddenly perk up and get things moving in the 3 months before bonuses are paid. It's not a coincidence.

Your change champion network, SMEs, people doing UAT should all have this reflected in their own goals.

End users should absolutely have some goals that are directly tied to their adoption of the change.

What are your thoughts? Is your organization’s current objective process working? Or is it just fluff? If you cascade, what has your experience been?


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