(2-minute read)
A non-AI generated post

In October 2022, I wrote a piece on performance-managing yourself. It focused on tools for building a personal database of your competencies, skills, motivations, stories and personality traits. The post elicited a lot of feedback and insightful commentary. Halfway thru 2023 is an excellent time to add to the story.

Let’s begin at the end. Performance managing yourself is about asserting greater control over your career.

By bringing rigor and personal accountability to your career path, you’ll be better able to get what you want from your job and probably get it sooner.

Some organizations do a good job of managing both organizational and personal goals, but most don’t. You are managed primarily on performance against organizational mandates and secondarily on your career trajectory and goals.

If you want to accelerate your career trajectory, prioritizing and controlling the process is up to you.

Some are already familiar with, or managed against, two of the more famous residents of the performance-management acronym farm: KPIs and OKRs.

For those who aren’t, here are the definitions.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are leadership-driven metrics focused on specific deliverables. KPIs are set by management.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a goal-setting framework incorporating adaptability to improve performance and drive positive change. OKRs are set by you.

KPIs are important, but today focuses on OKRs and moving them into your everyday To Do List.

Integrating OKRs and KPIS places equal attention on career measurement (OKRs) and job function measurement (KPIs), advancing both your current work and future career.

The interesting history of how OKRs came into being

In the 1950s, management guru Peter Drucker noticed that many CEOs got caught up in completing tasks and weren’t focusing enough on the larger vision. He developed a Management By Objective framework to keep leaders focused on the broader company vision. It was a good idea that was perfected in the 1970s by Andy Grove at Intel, who added Key Results as measurable and time-bound steps into the Management By Objective framework. Grove used this system at Intel and introduced it to John Doerr, who rolled it out to Google and pretty much the rest of the business world. The point here is that OK’s have been stress-tested and improved over time.

OKRs explained

OKRs are simply a way to add structure to a goal-setting process. They help you formalize your thinking and allow for flexibility.

Let’s first define the components of OKRs and what they are meant to do.

Objectives: what you want to achieve. The best objectives are clear, involve action, and inspire you.

Key results: specific, time-bound and realistic steps for achieving the goal you’ve set in your objective. The best key results incorporate clear metrics.

Career OKRs are aspirational and realistic by design, stretching you out of your comfort zone and keeping you motivated and confident in your progress.

Here are three examples of OKRs for career management.

Example #1:

Objective: Get promoted

Key Results:

KR #1: Manage 1 end-to-end project in Q3 successfully

KR#2: Pursue at least three public speaking opportunities over the upcoming year

KR #3: Enroll in 1 management class or training or learn one new skill

KR#4: Lead one organizational volunteer effort within six months

Example #2:

Objective: achieve a better work-life balance

Key Results:

KR #1: Sign up for two yoga classes each week

KR#2: Do one new activity each month

KR#3: Schedule 1 vacation in Q4 2023 and one vacation in Q2 2024

KR#4: Do two volunteer activities each quarter

Example #3:

Objective: Get a new job by December 2023

Key Results:

KR #1: July: Define what I want to do next

KR#2: August: Update resume and begin learning one new skill

KR#3: September: 3 networking calls/appointments each week

KR#4: October-December: Pursue 3-5 new roles each week

In each case, the objective is the larger goal, and the key results are the specific, time-lined steps that move you toward that goal.


5 Things to Keep in Mind

Start with one: Like Peter Drucker and Andy Grove before you, developing a successful framework takes time. You’ll also have OKRs and KPIs to deliver at work; if you set too many personal goals, you’ll get overwhelmed. If setting personal OKRs for the first time, start with one, test and learn, and adapt as necessary.

Be aggressively realistic: This exercise is designed for you to be successful. Make sure that your objectives are doable within the timeframe you’ve set.

Stay fluid: Begin with quarterly OKRs to see success and stay motivated. If the dynamics within your organization change, adapt your OKRs as necessary.

Don’t keep your OKRs a secret: Identity who can help you stay on track as an accountability partner. Having an accountability partner helps to keep you motivated.

Measure: Check in with your progress against your key results often. Here are two quick ways to measure your OKRs.

Measurement #1: Yes/No

Did you achieve your key results as stated?

Are you consistently delivering your key results?

Are you delivering within the timeline you’ve set?

What, if anything, should be modified?

Adjust as needed to move the No answers toward Yes.


Measurement #2: Sliding Scale

Sam Prince has a good description of a more nuanced approach using a sliding scale.

Roll out your OKRs for the second half of this year. Test, learn and adapt to find the right cadence for you.

When you control your career trajectory, staying motivated and energized is easy. Thanks to some of the most visionary businesspeople in memory for developing this versatile and easy-to-use tool.


Here’s a great book on the topic:

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr



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