Reaching good goals starts with knowing how to set the right goals for your team. Once you get the right goals in place, knowing how to lead your team to accomplish their goals set you up for even more success.
Team Goal Setting 101
All goals for your team should come from your team's purpose. Clearly define your team's purpose, but don't stop there. Remind your team of the purpose often. Put the team purpose in team communications. Open meetings (and close them) with a reminder of the primary team purpose.
This kind of repetition seems childish, but it is very effective in management. Jack Welch, 20-year CEO of General Electric, said
, "In leadership you have to exaggerate every statement you make. You’ve got to repeat it a thousand times." Repeating your team's purpose to yourself - and to your team - will help you all choose and focus on goals that line up with it.
Goals are good. Challenges are motivating. But too many goals are overwhelming. Too much challenge, with too much pressure, curtails motivation and leads to a feeling of helplessness.
One of your primary jobs as a team leader is to discern how much your team can handle.
You might have to request additional time on projects, recruit extra help, or intervene when deadlines get crazy. You can't control everything, of course; but protecting your team from the stress of too much when you can will enable them to think creatively and work more productively.
Reaching Goals with Your Team
Specific, Short-Term Goals
Setting specific goals lets team members know exactly what to work on. Short-term goals give a clear focus and an achievable endpoint, which people need to stay motivated.
As soon as a "big" goal is established, spend time with your team breaking it down into specific, short-term goals and putting those onto a timeline. Then take it a step further by detailing how much the team needs to achieve weekly, or even daily, to stay on track.
Your team members have varying skills, talents, levels of productivity, and degrees of self-motivation. Some of them will jump in, take initiative, and end up overloaded with too much of the work. Others will hesitate, wait for guidelines, and allow their talents to go unused.
As the team leader, you define the roles within the team and make sure that tasks are assigned proportionately. Defining roles gives everyone a sense of security; it's comforting to know what your responsibility is, and thus, what it is not. Assigning tasks - or overseeing that process - ensures that the workload is realistic for all members of the team.
Deadlines and the accompanying time-related pressure are inevitable. However, you can protect your team from undue stress by being careful to stagger project and short-term goal deadlines.
If possible, give your team a time buffer by incorporating soft deadlines into the timeline. A soft deadline gives everyone a little bit of breathing room. The ironic part is that having that buffer means they probably won't need it; the freedom from stress can boost both creativity and productivity.
Establish Boundaries and Structure
Boundaries define the limits that govern the team as a whole. Clear boundaries tell your team, "This is what we are not doing," which then gives them clarity and freedom to focus on what they are doing.
A structure tells your team, "This is how we do what we do." Though projects and goals vary, methods often repeat. With structures such as checklists, quality levels, step-by-step processes, and feedback, your team can move quickly through the work rather than re-inventing the creative wheel each time around.
You don't have to hand out gold star stickers. You do need to recognize both individual contributions and team achievement. Something as simple as verbal praise at the next team meeting can help build morale and encourage continued effort.
People are funny that way; even though we know what we've achieved, we like to have it validated by others. We crave recognition, and the warm fuzzies we get from recognition help us want to achieve more. So don't be stingy with praise, rewards, and positive reminders of what people have accomplished, individually and collectively.
Give and Get Feedback
Feedback is one of the most important ingredients to continued team accomplishment. When your team has reached a goal, spend time evaluating what went well and what could be improved.
Be ready to provide feedback as well as receive it, and use the information to improve how you set and reach the next team goal.