The Secret to Setting Effective Team Goals
Story of Goal Setting from an Olympic Sprinter
Setting any type of personal goal can often be challenging, but setting team goals is a different matter altogether! Incorporating a number of different opinions, personalities, viewpoints and directing them all towards one common goal is a complex task.
At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, I was in a brilliant sprint team consisting of myself, Iwan Thomas, Jamie Baulch and Roger Black. Our goal was clear, to get on the podium and we felt that, in the process, we could challenge the British record. To deliver this, we had a team race objective to give Roger, who was running on the last leg, as much of an opportunity to chase down our strongest opponents, the Americans, as possible. As a team, we wanted to be no more than a couple of strides behind the Americans leading into the final leg. In order to execute our race plan effectively, we had set a number of performance goals during that season and at the holding camp that we had to meet.
As an example, during team training we focused on baton changeovers. The baton change in the 4x400m is an intricate process. It’s the responsibility of the outgoing runner to collect the baton safely from their team mate, who will at this point in the race be succumbing to the effects of lactic acid. Firstly, the outgoing runner needs to jostle for position and protect a clear space for the incoming runner to travel towards in the last few strides preceding the baton change. The outgoing runner needs to judge the speed and match the speed of his colleague to maintain baton speed through the relay zone. Our preparation around the process goals was meticulous.
As well as these process goals, we all had a series of individual performance goals that we were working towards. The ultimate aim, being that each one of us ran a personal best in the build up to the Games, so that each one of us was in peak condition when it mattered most.
We combined these individual goals, with our clear objective of getting on the podium and we spent time building our identity as a team. When the individual event had come to an end, we purposely spent as much time together as possible — we dined together, wore the same uniform on a day to day basis, so that we broke down the silos of individual competition (we had been competing against each other all season long!) to start coalescing as a team. We also spent time reflecting on why we had pushed ourselves to the limit, which was quite simply to achieve the ultimate goal in our profession; to win an Olympic Medal…