Tim Shigley, president of Shigley Construction Co., in Wichita, Kan., believes that positive things in our lives don't just happen. We have to plan for them. He helps his employees reach their goals by asking each to complete a goal-planning form at the beginning of each year.

“We ask about all aspects of their lives because work is really a means to an end,” Shigley says. “If we know about their goals outside work, we may find that we can take actions to help them reach those goals.” The form asks about the following:

Personal relationships. What actions does the employee want to take to strengthen the relationship with their spouse, children, parents, or friends? Space is included for information about where and when they want to take vacation this year, even weekends away.

Physical health. How does the individual plan to improve his or her physical health in the near future?

Spiritual life. How would the employee like to enhance his or her spiritual life? Shigley says, “This seemed kind of personal to me but a key manager felt it should be included since this is such an important part of the lives of some.”

Business goals. What are the individual's goals for increasing his or her skill level at work?

In addition, members of the company's production team are asked what volume they expect to produce in the coming year. Management also requests individual performance goals that are greater than those achieved last year, which helps the company push efficiency and growth. The management and members of the production team then break annual goals into monthly goals together. In addition to immediate goals, the employee is also asked to share where he or she would like to be — personally and professionally — in three, and then five years.

All forms are turned in to Shigley and his key manager, who review each one. Then the entire company meets to share goals with one another. “It's not just a big group hug,” Shigley stresses. He finds that it has a practical effect. “If everyone knows about the goals you're trying to reach, everyone will do what they can to help. But if we don't know, there's nothing we can do.”

There are several benefits from this exercise, Shigley says. “First, it allows us all to know more about one another and what each of us wants to accomplish. Second, because it includes practical information, such as vacation goals, we can plan ahead and set expectations early if someone's first-choice time frame can't be met. Third, and probably most importantly, this exercise forces people to think about what they really want out of life. The simple act of writing down goals is a major step toward achieving them. I truly believe that.” — Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, a national consulting firm specializing in the challenges of running a remodeling company. 301.490.5620; www.remodelersadvantage.com.