October 23, 2019

The foundations of great teamwork: Goals

Why do goals matter?

Improving the way you set and execute your goals has long-term implications for your team’s success. More immediately, it’s a great way to sharpen your focus and lift your team energy levels.

You’ve probably gone through several goal setting exercises as team over the years, however recent thinking argues that goal setting is strengthened by focussing on execution and results. Teams which are able to measure their progress towards their goals are likely to have higher rates of motivation and success. Accountability can improve too if team members can see the contribution their individual efforts are making to the team’s progress.

“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything. It takes a team to win.” John Doerr, Venture Capitalist

Why is it challenging?

Goals are objectives that seek to achieve changes, they are different from short term work priorities, the ‘whirlwind of daily work’ so often take second place on a day to day basis.

Finding time and space to prioritise activities that create progress towards goals is often a challenge for teams — people are simply too busy dealing with the urgent demands of daily work.

Top tips

1. Be clear on your team’s goals

If your team is working toward too many goals, basically, the more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish. Get the team involved and work together to identify the 1–3 goals that are critical to your team’s success.

2. Be clear on what you can influence

To make your team goals meaningful and motivating, you need to build visible connections between your goals and tasks. Team members should be able to see on an ongoing basis how their work is moving the team towards its goals.

This means focusing on the steps you take as a team to execute the goal. One way to do this is to differentiate between ‘outcomes’ and ‘actions

  • Outcomes describe the goal itself (“weight loss” or “a reduced accident rate”) — you can measure these but you can’t directly influence them.
  • Actions are steps that contribute to the goal (“calorie counting” or “following the right safety procedures”). These predict the success of the goal. Importantly, your team can influence these directly.

Work together to define your own outcomes and actions. Team members will feel more accountable, if their efforts are clearly making a difference.

3. Measure your results

Measuring the team’s progress toward your goals is a great way to motivate the team. Make sure your progress is visible — to the team and the organisation — as an ongoing reminder that you are making progress.

A scoreboard, where the team records progress against its actions, is a great way to do this.

You may also want to consider setting your goals in terms of OKRs(objectives and key results). These are designed to link company, team and personal objectives to measurable results.

4. Working to goals your team hasn’t chosen

Sometimes goals are mandated by the organisation and your team may not be involved in setting them. It may feel difficult to get the team enthused. When this happens, It’s important that you create your own sense of alignment to the goal.

Defining outcome and action measures can help you do this, as your team will have a clear idea of how their daily work activities and tasks contribute to the goal. Or if you prefer OKRs — focusing on key results is a good way to find common ground between your team’s goals and the organisation’s.

Useful resources

The beginners guide to goal setting

7 popular goal setting strategies

5 team building exercises for setting goals you’ll stick to


Need some help with goal setting? CoachBot can help. Click here to learn more.

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