Performance Goals

How to set performance goals for your team

If you want your team to be successful, the best thing you can do is set aside time to work on some team performance goals. Visit why you need to set your goals for 2018 to refresh the reasons why goal setting works.)

Just as effective personal goals have to be set thoughtfully and thoroughly in line with your personal vision, team performance goals require some thought and should be aligned with company goals.

I’m sure we’ve all heard, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” right? Well, that is especially true when all of the parts are working together toward a common goal. As long as each piece is performing optimally and calibrated to work in harmony with the others, it’s much more likely that the whole will achieve success because of the strength of the parts.

Whether you’re a leader or one of the employees, working on your team goal setting offers a chance to achieve better things. It helps to have clear expectations and fully understand how each person’s contributions fit into the organization’s mission. People who feel their contributions matter and who have a written goal will be more engaged with their work and typically more productive.

Let’s work through how to set effective team goals so that everyone works with a shared purpose.

Identify opportunities for team performance goals

Start by identifying company goals, for the short and the long term. Then, within the company goals, clarify what your team’s responsibilities and goals are (unless you’re the CEO, and then company goals ARE your team’s goals).

Break down these goals into sub-goals that are based on areas of responsibility for individual team members. Ideally their interests and abilities will align to their areas of responsibility, but they don’t always. Don’t despair! Sometimes a goal requires ability outside our normal duties and those abilities may be found where you least expect them (and you have time to figure out the details later).

Some leaders use goal setting not only to challenge their team members, but also to help them have a chance to learn and grow by learning new skills or undertaking new responsibilities. Some goals will be a bit of a stretch, more than the employee’s normal daily routine activities. They should be within reach, and clearly establish how the employee will contribute to the good of the company.

Taking the time to write down sub-goals can help you identify situations that may need extra support or discover ways in which staff will surprise you with their hidden talents. Refer to our recent blog about mastering daily tasks to achieve big goals to help with this step.

Set smart goals

As I discussed recently in the blog presenting our ultimate goal setting worksheet, effective goals need to be SMART goals. To recap, this means that the right kinds of goals are going to be:

Specific – Does the goal set out exactly what needs to be achieved, including who is responsible and what supports can be leveraged?

Measurable – How will you know when this goal is achieved? You should be able to define how many, how much, or how often to give the goal some metrics.

Achievable – What makes this achievable? Is it likely that this goal can be achieved given the supports and resources available? If it’s not achievable, rewrite the goal to be achievable OR create an IF…THEN list; add in the obstacle (the “IF” this happens) that makes it unachievable and see if you can find a “THEN this happens” to address that obstacle.

Relevant – How important is this goal to the company and why does it matter? What difference will this goal make? Write that stuff down – when it feels tough to reach a goal, rereading the relevance might be motivating.

Timely – What is the target to complete this goal? Is it realistic to achieve? (Remember that while a stretch goal can be motivating, if the time frame is too challenging it can be demotivating and if the time frame is too far out, you risk losing momentum.)

Set aside time to collaborate with each team member, meet face to face if possible, and help them determine their SMART goals. Yes, depending on how many folks report directly to you, this could be a bit time consuming, but will save so much time – and frustration – for you and the team later. Just remember that you’re investing in your own leadership by nurturing collaboration so that you can help your team identify goals that will in turn support the company’s success.

In your meetings, outline and review each person’s goals and expectations, including the SMART measurement metrics and timelines. Keep in mind:

  • If employees are newer, you’re going to guide them through the steps you expect them to take and require them to check in with you often. (Be sure to set a reminder for yourself to do the same!)
  • If employees are experienced, you can outline how often you want updates and ensure they know they can come to you with questions. Then coach them on the projects (I recommend using open-ended questions with very little direction). Let them find the path that works best for them, as long as goals are met on time.

Align employee goals to company vision

It’s absolutely crucial that you make time to ensure that employee goals are coordinated. Imagine a dance troupe without choreography or a sports team with no memorized plays to execute on command; that’s the kind of chaos you can expect if employee goals aren’t aligned to the strategic business objectives of your company.

There are important benefits from making sure that everyone’s efforts are focused on supporting company goals. First, clear communication and encouraging collaborative efforts strengthen and enhance leadership. Second, camaraderie improves as people feel they are supporting each other and working together efficiently to achieve common goals. And finally, when redundant work is eliminated or minimized and people are very motivated, you’ll find much greater organizational agility as they can quickly respond to changes.

When each employee can see exactly how their smaller picture fits with the company’s bigger picture, they’re going to have a deeper understanding of where the company is going and what their roles and responsibilities are in accomplishing crucial steps.

Track progress 

Identifying the individual goals that support the company-wide goals is only the first step. Every employee needs to be tracking their progress to fulfill the measurement requirement of a SMART goal.

Key metrics need to be carefully documented as a matter of routine so that they can be easily reviewed. This way you or your managers will be able to assess whether progress is adequate or insufficient – as well as if extra supports are required – using actual data instead of a gut feeling.

While your employees should be keeping track of their own progress, don’t forget to set up your own calendar to track and check in. Don’t fall into the trap of running out of time to manage the employee and then feeling surprised and frustrated if things aren’t done right, on time. Their job is to deliver the goal, but yours as a leader is to make sure they’re on track and have everything they need as they progress, even if they don’t yet know they need it.

Measure success

Tracking progress helps us measure and demonstrate to employees how tangibly their own hard work supports the company’s goals. It can be immensely motivating to give different team members or departments insight into how their peers are doing. Reviewing goals and measuring success can sharpen focus and make everyone more determined (as long as the competition remains healthy!).

Studies show that setting and tracking metrics greatly contributes to achieving the desired results. There may be times that reviewing key data informs how individuals or teams can improve performance.

Some leaders choose to use dashboards to give a concise overview or snapshot of progress. These can be updated “live” dashboards available to everyone or tailored to individuals and groups. Sharing ongoing results with everyone can encourage a sense of collective responsibility, both motivating individuals to take ownership of their own roles within the team and offer support to others when needed.

Sharing metrics in team meetings is another way to review challenges and celebrate successes. Measuring should be a time to share ideas and find solutions so everyone is on track to achieve the goals.

Be flexible

It’s not unusual to have to reassess certain strategies or action items. Refining the process to achieve a goal is not a failure, it’s par for the course. Be prepared to adjust or change various aspects as required.

This is when you might decide extra supports or resources could be beneficial. There may even be times when deadlines can – perhaps even should – be extended. To paraphrase one of our fantastic clients, sometimes “procrastination is a skill.”