How to set Team Goals as a team

Getting a team motivated is challenging in itself, but we’ve all read and heard that setting goals for your team is a critical component. When goals and objectives seem to come down from on high without involving the people tasked with achieving them in the process, it can be downright excruciating. Incorporating your team into the process of team goal setting can be the critical difference between frustration, resentment, or apathy and motivation, excitement, and a sense of teamwork.

What Team Goal Setting Shouldn’t Be

Those two dreaded words: Group Project

Maybe your school days are long behind you, maybe you’re still chasing your first (or second) degree. Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in the classroom might cringe over the thought of revisiting the group project dynamic. We all have horror stories, and occasionally we might have even the reason for the uneven workload.

The situation is usually the same: one or two people brainstorm some ideas and decide what the final project will look like. Those same people do 80% of the work — maybe another couple people chip in, when they show up to class. It seemed like there was one more person but no one has seen or heard from them in weeks.

Sound about right?

Even worse: A sales pitch

Another mistake is making the goal setting process “seem” interactive. The scene is familiar; everyone has blocked off their calendar, the coffee has been poured and the conference room looks akin to a modern day knights of the round table. No one is leaving until we make it through all the items on the agenda. The only problem? The goals were actually set at a leadership meeting last week and the real aim of this meeting is to “sell” the team on it.

Both of the above scenarios are the absolute wrong way to approach team goal setting.

So how can we ensure we are setting team goals effectively and with everyone’s genuine participation?

Goal Setting starts with your vision

When your team members have a deep understanding of what the company is trying to achieve, they can make decisions through that lens. Rather than having to critique and micromanage every decision a person makes, they become empowered to do what’s needed to reinforce the values of the company and the team.

I’m not talking about putting posters around the office with words like “collaboration” or “synergy.” Instead, communicate to your team what value the company is delivering for its customers and how everyone together is going to do their part. This should be something that starts during the hiring process and is ingrained into every decision made within the organization from the bottom up.

Essentially, who are you to your customers and what makes you unique? If we asked ten people in your company that, how similar do you think their answers would be?

Set meaningful goals

Allow individuals and teams to set their own goals which help the company get closer to achieving its mission. Although senior leadership plays a critical role in company-wide objectives, goal setting should be an interactive process. Team goal setting allows the members to identify what positive results toward company objectives that the team can control. This gives everyone a sense of teamwork, cameraderie and that we’re all in this together. The more we can involve people in the process of determining what they need to accomplish, the more committed they will be to actually achieving the desired results. It also gives them valuable insight into the process of defining company and team strategies and how these types decisions are made.

Track progress toward your goals

To summarize the exchange between Alice and the Cheshire cat, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

It’s critical that the goals you set as a team are well defined and easy to understand. Things like “sell more” or “build that new feature faster” are not helpful or motivating; clear, concise goals are. Make goals specific and measurable so we can understand which metrics to track to tell us whether we achieved them. This isn’t to say that goals have to be so specific and rigid that they can’t be adapted over time as situations change. (For more on different goal setting methodolgoies; read more here.)

Need help setting goals as a team? Download our free guide to Getting Started with Team Metrics and get it done together in 3 short meetings.

As we covered in a previous post, make sure to identify critical team success metrics. With so many priorities and numbers to track, it can feel like we’re being pulled in many directions at once. By spending more of our time on the top 2–3 metrics for our role, everyone will be focused on the activities that will have the biggest impact.

Sharing is Caring — Especially when it comes to Team Goals

Just as important as defining our team goals and the metrics we’ll use to gauge our progress, we need to ensure we are sharing and collaborating on them too. If we aren’t regularly monitoring and discussing our progress toward these goals, we are leaving food (money, opportunity, lines of code) on the table. Too often time passes, excitement fades and goals go untracked. What started with zeal has now fallen to the wayside with other ghosts of failed initiatives past.

Rather than tasking each individual with tracking their goals or making it another one of the manager’s administrative responsibilities (which I’ve spent way too many hours of my life doing,) set up an easy to access central location where everyone can set and monitor individual and team goals. This doesn’t mean we need to share every possible number available, rather share the key data that has a direct impact on the team.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Beyond just setting up a team goal and metrics dashboard, make it a constant topic of conversations in meetings and a reference point when questions about these goals come up. These metrics should be reviewed by each team member and the manager regularly — if not every day, at least every week. It doesn’t need to be a 9am status meeting but briefly review and communicate any red flags via Slack (or however makes sense for your team.)

One-on-one’s will be off to a much faster start if we aren’t spending the first five to ten minutes comparing spreadsheets. We can quickly pull up our goals, review how we are tracking toward them and dive into the key metrics. These meetings are a great place to coach around any numbers that need work and give some praise for those that look good.

Continue to reinforce this process by bringing up the goals at the start of every team meeting. With everyone on the same page, this is a great time to identify specific challenges and come up with potential strategies for fixing them. Dedicate five or ten minutes of each team meeting to brainstorming ideas around one of your team goals.

Additionally, use these goals as your rubric for evaluating new projects or initiatives. Will this work get us closer to our goals or serve as a distraction? Be ruthless! If an idea isn’t in line with individual, team, or company goals, sideline it for a later date. You will stay more focused and ultimately accomplish more in the long term.

Team Goals should empower cross-functional alignment

A little heavy on the buzzwords there, but basically, are our team goals and objectives aligned with the overall company goals?

It’s important to focus on our team’s goals, but leadership also needs to confirm that our success within the team is leading to broader success within the company. Make these same team goals a regular part of the conversation when meeting with senior leadership or peers in other business units.

Having the data and having access to it will only benefit us if we make data a regular part of our discussions and decision making process.

Celebrate Meaningful Results

In the context of team goal setting, being able to show meaningful results and provide recognition for achieving them is of the utmost importance. If we are going to merely gloss over this part and send them a gift card, we are doing a disservice to our company and our people. By involving each person in the goal setting process, we have already helped them create meaningful goals aligned with our mission. Finding meaning in the goals will in itself increase the satisfaction of working towards them. However once they have achieved the goals, it’s a perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate how important our values are and what it means to us that our team has gone the extra mile. This isn’t to say that everyone gets a gold Rolex for doing their job, but it does mean that if you want these goals to be important to your team, show them they are just as important to you.

Looking for help setting goals as a team? Download the Guide to Getting Started with Team Metrics.

We’ll explain everything step-by-step and in 3 short meetings with your team, you’ll have team goals and metrics defined and ready to track!

Download the guide!


Colin McGrew

This post originally appeared on the Notion blog.