Guest Column | April 16, 2020

Best Practices For Setting Team Goals

By Kate O’Neil, Teaming

Setting Team Goals

There is nothing better than the feeling of satisfaction that comes from crossing something off your to-do list. Whether it’s a mom who finally makes it to the grocery store, a marketing manager completing a campaign, or a team that just reached its quarterly goal, the gratification that comes from knowing you’ve finally achieved the work you set out to accomplish is unlike any other.

The opposite dynamic is also true. Sometimes, the tasks are so big and the work so daunting that crossing items off the list is a rare occurrence. Other times, even as items are being checked off the list, new tasks are being added just as quickly, giving task-doers the impression that no matter how hard he or she works, there’s simply no end in sight to things that must be done. This can be overwhelming and dispiriting, particularly in a work environment where one person’s to-do list impacts another person’s (or even an entire company’s) performance.

In situations such as these, it’s vital that business teams, and especially team leaders, know how to create effective team goals, as goals are what propel a team forward and create opportunities for feelings of accomplishment. When considering how teams and team managers think about goal creation, it can be easy to get stuck in the weeds of picking a completion date or the nuances of the language we use. Even more, it can feel as if the goal is never attainable given the number of things that will have to be crossed off the list in order to see progress. However, at the end of the day, we need to remind ourselves that a goal, in its simplest form, is an outline of where we would like to go in the future, and the necessary steps we need to achieve in order to get there.

How To Create Team Goals

Effective goal creation is a crucial practice for managers and team members, as it increases motivation, task management, and productivity. While it can be daunting, goal setting, when broken down into consistent and clear steps, just becomes one large to-do list for teams to work through together. In order to cultivate team synergy and elevate team health, managers are encouraged to articulate a process that makes goal setting digestible and rewarding, as building quality goals is integral to both individual and team performance.

Before beginning the goal articulation process, it’s important for team leaders to understand the steps that go into making a quality goal. While there are many different ideologies on goal making, such as the SMART or OKR goal processes, a simplified system will help teams excavate the core purpose of their work as well as understand everything that needs to get done. For this reason, goal setting can be broken down into three main categories: goals, key results, and actions.

Goals should be the vision of where you want to go and what outcomes you hope to achieve. Goals do not always need to be quantitative and can be an overarching value your company has, such as having good internal culture or having a successful recruiting process. However, while the goal itself does not need to be a metric, it is vital that the key results within the goal are.

Key results are achievable and measurable outputs that make up the outcome of a goal. It is important that every manager makes this distinction, as we want teams to be results driven, not activity driven. If managers were to just focus on key results, such as hitting 50,000 viewers for a new recruiting video, then they would be focusing on the output and not the true outcome – how the increase in viewers impacted a “successful recruitment process.” Thus, it is integral that managers know how to articulate the differences between goals and key outcomes when working with their teams.

Once the goals and key results have been identified, it will be easy to make a list of actions that must be completed under each key result, otherwise known as the steps your team will be able to cross off as you move through your goal. Examples of this could be “post the recruiting video on LinkedIn,” or “send video to all core undergraduate listservs.” It is important to note that these actions can sometimes constrain other outstanding items from occurring until completed; it will be important that your teamwork through the cadence of the to-do list to ensure you can get the work done as quickly and effectively as possible. By making this list, your team is able to manage and visualize the workflow within different KRs and help manage potential gaps that occur.

Now it is time to start creating quality goals with your team. Below are the questions you should ask yourself when articulating the three different stages of goal setting:

  1.  Where do I want to go? What needs to be accomplished? (Goal)
  2. What are the results I need to achieve to get there? (Key Results)
  3. What do I need to do to achieve those results? (Actions)

Once you’ve done this, you can start to help move your team in the direction of better work and see the visible result of more checkmarks!

About The Author

Kate O’Neil is cofounder of Teaming.