What is the Learning Goals System?

[Interested in the concepts behind Learning Goals, or why it's worth pursuing one?  Read Learning Goals - Overview and Principles. Your question not covered here?  Try the Learning Goals F.A.Q.]

The Learning Goals System is designed to help you pursue a specific leadership goal,  through practicing "Actions" and learning to adapt based on regular feedback from your colleagues.  

Though they can be used for a wide range of goals, the system is best for goals that span at least a few months and benefit from outside feedback.  The software is also built to integrate directly with the Torch Leadership Assessment (the "360").

How does a Learning Goal work, basically?

Each goal is based on a subdomain of the Torch leadership framework.  The real meat of the goal is a set of "assessment statements" (1-3).  These statements should each specifically describe one leadership behavior improvement you seek.  Together they comprise the overall goal target. 

Next, choose a set of colleagues to help you make progress.  On the frequency you select, Torch will send out surveys to these colleagues, asking them to share progress you've made and feedback that might be helpful.  

The "Actions" section within Learning Goals allows you to set tasks & behaviors to complete that will move you toward your goal.  Usually set in concert with your coach,  an action is meant to be a S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) task.   

By iteratively completing actions, learning from feedback, and working with your coach, you can achieve strong growth.

The Learning Goals System is meant to be flexible enough to meet a variety of needs.  For example:

  • "Miscellaneous" goals with custom descriptions can be created if your goal doesn't fit within the framework.  
  • Goals that don't lend themselves well to feedback can be set up as "private" and will disable feedback-related functionality

How do I create a Learning Goal?

A Learning goal can be created from the "Learning Goals" tab in your dashboard, or even from the 360 results.

Goal creation has 3 basic steps:

Set the basics of the goal  

  • These include the domain of leadership the goal falls within, a description, and the frequency at which feedback is requested. 

Define the assessment statements

  • Pick from predefined statements (associated with the goal subdomain, and usually associated with items from the 360)
  • Optionally, write your own statements

Invite colleagues

  • Invite as many colleagues a you like, and specify their relation to you (e.g. manager, peer, report etc.)
  • The list is pre-populated with your feedback providers from previous 360's and  Learning Goals
  • Add or remove colleagues later as you like
  • Colleague feedback is anonymous, though feedback is delivered verbatim
  • Colleagues can decline to participate if they are overburdened

How do I pursue a Learning Goal?

Most Learning Goals are complex and challenging exercises in behavior change.  As such, each deserves its own approach, heavily guided and supported by your coach.  That said, in most cases leveraging the software platform well can help improve your growth velocity:  making more progress, and in the right direction.

Set Actions

Starting at goal creation, set actions to complete that will help you to improve, or at least to experiment. Take the added effort to check that your actions are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).  

As you receive and process feedback, set new actions based on what you've learned. Generally, don't try to attain the whole goal in each action, but simply to make progress, which your feedback providers can detect.

(Actions are private and not shared beyond your coach).

The Feedback Provider experience

When you first create a Learning Goal, each "feedback provider" you invite will receive an introductory email, which will provide them an outline of the process and your goal:  its leadership subdomain, and the associated statements.

Then, after each interval you've set (e.g. 2 weeks),  each feedback provider will receive a quick pulse survey (via email), asking them to share any progress they've seen, and any constructive feedback they have for you. 

For each assessment statement in your goal, the feedback provider is asked to select a structured statement about the amount of growth they see (e.g. "moderate progress"), and they can optionally add written feedback to elaborate.  The Learning Goals System is oriented towards supporting growth vs. judgement, and as such the lowest available measure is: "no progress"

The experience is designed to be extremely easy, potentially taking just a minute. 

If they are too busy, the feedback provider can choose to decline to participate in the overall goal (from the email they receive).

Process feedback

When new feedback is added to your goal, you will be sent an alert via email, where you can then view the feedback in your dashboard. 

The view for a single Learning Goal will show all the feedback you've received, organized by statement, including both the structured statement selected, and also written feedback.  Structured growth statements are converted to "Growth Points" and you can gauge your relative amount of growth through the aggregate of Growth Points in each goal.

Of course, reading feedback is the easy part.  Correctly interpreting and applying it is the real challenge and is difficult for even the most experienced leader.  There are a host of hurdles to overcome, including, but not limited to:

  • Our innate resistance to criticism or new perspectives
  • Vague or bland feedback, perhaps due to the desire to be sensitive 
  • Broad or overly-general feedback, that can't be acted on
  • Ad-hominem critiques,  or other emotionally non-constructive feedback
  • Perspective and experiences that vary so greatly from our own that they are hard to appreciate.

These challenges can be overcome by developing your skills in reading and adapting to feedback.  This can be accomplished by leveraging your coach, the Torch platform, and putting in the effort. And the effort is worth it: the ability to perceive our gaps with appropriate perspective and then address them is the core element supporting leadership growth.

At its best, strong constructive feedback can be the driving force behind our growth, and a competitive advantage.  At the worst, even poor-quality feedback from those who don't have our best interests at heart is very valuable information.

Plan new goals

When you've reached your goal, or feel like a new one has a better ROI (perhaps something you've learned from feedback), you can "archive" your goal and set a new one.  Archived goals can be re-activated at any time.

You can set and pursue several Learning Goals at once. Overall consult with your coach to see how many you can meaningfully pursue at once.  Generally 1-3 is a common range.  Even one goal, pursued with effort and intention, is an ambitious undertaking. 


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