In a business, setting organizational goals can be a fantastic way to motivate employees. Having a target to hit helps create a sense of cohesiveness and purpose in daily tasks. But while goals can have a positive impact on a team, they can be equally damaging when done haphazardly. Teams must maintain a delicate balance between too-easy objectives and unrealistic ones.
Setting an easily met goal might sound nice, but it does little to improve performance and actually undermines morale in the long term. Goals that are unrealistic or simply too broad can be overwhelming and demoralizing. Ideally, a goal should be specific, achievable, aligned with the organization’s needs, and challenging enough to drive professional growth and improved performance.
How to Begin Setting Goals
Goals allow us to envision a brighter future. Still, the path from vision to specific, actionable goals can be a difficult one. Many business leaders find the goal-setting process overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you follow a few simple steps.
Start with research.
An important, but often overlooked, part of goal setting is research. Understanding how a business currently functions is essential. Strategic planners need to identify and analyze the various factors affecting a particular process or outcome. Only then can you chart a course for future improvement. For instance, setting a goal to reduce excess spending requires a thorough knowledge of the current budget and expenditures. The largest expenditures should be analyzed to determine if or why they are needed. Once this research is complete, the preparation of a new budget can begin.
It is equally important to understand the psychology of motivation. There is a lot of great research available about how people set priorities and why they meet (or don’t meet) goals. Goals that work against human nature are less likely to be met. Remember, understanding how and why a target was chosen is critical to building support for it.
Set smaller challenges.
Even the best-researched goal can be intimidating without clear direction on how to accomplish it. The intention to increase sales by 25%, for example, can get lost in the day-to-day interactions with clients. A terrific way to keep performance on track is to break goals into smaller challenges. Challenges that contribute to increasing sales might be “bring in X number of new clients per month” or “increase the value of each sale by Y amount.” Having these milestones — and seeing them reached — makes the overall goal seem more attainable.
Make an action plan.
Once these first two steps are complete, it’s time to create an action plan. A written plan documents goals and challenges as well as the step-by-step procedures needed to achieve them. It also defines the relative priority of different tasks, identifies the team members and resources required for each task, and sets specific criteria and deadlines for measuring success. The plan can also include motivational factors to drive performance. Sharing such a document provides clear focus and accountability for each member of a team.
This doesn’t mean that the plan can’t change, however. An action plan should be easy to review and modify, as needed. By identifying which steps were difficult and the reasons for those difficulties, teams can better harness their energy toward meeting their long-term goal(s).
Communicate with your team.
Don’t forget to include team members in each step of the goal-setting process. A goal created by a team carries more weight than one imposed by a manager. Additionally, team members often have greater insight into the details of processes and a deeper understanding of current workloads. Providing opportunities to participate in goal-setting creates a more inclusive and motivating work environment. After all, it takes more than crunching numbers or observing an environment to set a great goal. The individuals ultimately responsible for realizing a goal deserve a voice in its development.
Throughout the process of designing and implementing a strategy, it’s important to maintain communication with your team. Regular constructive feedback can clear up any confusion about the importance of the goal and the steps needed to achieve it. Additionally, celebrating milestones throughout the performance period boosts engagement and increases the likelihood of success.
Incentives don’t hurt, either.
Although accomplishing a goal intrinsically benefits all, team members seldom complain about the use of incentives to further motivate production. Such rewards don’t need to be costly. A hand-written thank-you note can be as deeply appreciated as an elaborate gift. Experiential gifts allow team members to take a break and recharge their batteries while more tangible rewards serve as a reminder of past achievements and help inspire future success. And after all, a team that meets well-made goals is contributing to the organization’s financial success. Haven’t they earned a part of that?
While not every goal will be met, researching needs, preparing a formal plan, and utilizing effective communication and motivational techniques with your team can do wonders for performance. Both managers and employees get a front-row seat to the accomplishments and setbacks, enabling them to adapt accordingly to bring future success. We must always be actively learning and adapting to mature in business. Effective goal setting is one more tool for achieving that objective.
Looking for more tips on how to meet your organizational goals?
Check out The Importance of Goals, by Ted Taveras. Because having a vision isn’t enough.