You likely have many goals and aspirations for your team. That’s great! But having lots of goals isn't the same as having goals you can realistically achieve. Ineffective goal-setting makes the journey from point A to point B challenging.
When you set strong and purposeful team goals, they act as your team’s compass or North Star, steering you in the right direction. With practical, realistic, and time-sensitive goals, you can improve your team’s performance and efficiency, keeping them on the road to success.
How do you set clear goals that outline expectations and keep each team member motivated and accountable for their role in this endeavor? By following a consistent set of steps, of course!
Here are seven steps to set effective goals for your team:
1. Determine your key business objectives
The first step in effectively setting team goals is to figure out what your near-term and long-term objectives are. In other words, when looking at the big picture, what are you hoping to achieve and how well does it align with broader company goals and initiatives? These key objectives are often based on both your organizational goals and team-specific goals.
For example, if you lead a Customer Success team, your goals might be aligned with the overall business goal of increasing customer retention. To meet that objective, you might focus on improving customer satisfaction. Your team-specific goals might be to train new team leaders and enhance your workflows to be more efficient at customer support interactions. All of these goals are beneficial to one another, but getting specific is important for creating effective team goals.
2. Develop SMART goals that focus on strengths
One way to get really focused on your goals is to use the SMART framework. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. However, to create even more effective team goals, there’s one more letter you can add: “s” for “strengths.”
According to Gallup, focusing on strength-based goals helps you focus on things that you are already doing well and capitalize on that. This means you’ll spend less time fixated on areas where you need to improve, which can sometimes be stressful or overwhelming.
For example, say your broad goal is to increase business revenue and build new products. Your marketing team excels at brainstorming new and creative marketing strategies. Here’s what that would look like when using the SMART framework plus the added strengths component (SMARTS, if you will):
Specific: “Increase quarterly sales revenue for our e-commerce store.”
Measurable: “Achieve a 20% increase in sales revenue compared to the same quarter last year.”
Achievable: “We will invest in targeted marketing campaigns and focus on partnerships.”
Relevant: “Increasing revenue will support the growth strategy and enable us to reinvest in product development, further building the business.”
Time-bound: "Achieve a 20% increase in sales revenue by the end of the next quarter, which is three months from today."
Strengths: “We will conduct one of our stellar design sprints to generate new ideas.”
In this example, you’ve set an attainable and measurable goal by using key performance indicators (KPIs). Plus, you’ve focused on your team’s strengths to help support that goal. As you go through the process, you’ll use key sales and marketing metrics to make sure you’re on the right track throughout the quarter. At the end of the quarter, you'll check your KPIs and see whether you’ve met your SMART goal and where you can improve.
3. Gather feedback and input from team members
Once you’ve developed your initial goals, it’s time to share them with your team and relevant stakeholders. Gathering team feedback isn't only helpful for the sake of creating effective goals, but it’s also a way to increase employee engagement and allow their opinions about your team’s trajectory to be heard. Stakeholder feedback is also important because it can give you a different perspective outside, helping you to continue refining and aligning your goals with company objectives.
There are a lot of ways you can collect feedback from team members. These include:
Brainstorming: Use a collaborative document or feedback template in which everyone can contribute their thoughts and build off each other’s opinions and critiques.
Survey or questionnaire: Survey your team members about their perceptions of the team's goals. Include questions about clarity, relevance, and attainability. Decide whether you want to share the results with your team for a discussion.
One-on-one or small group meetings: Meet with team members individually or in small groups so that they are less influenced by others. For some, a one-on-one will be a setting that's more comfortable for expressing honest opinions; for others, they may prefer to share anonymously or in a group setting.
These are just a few ways you can collect feedback on your goals. You can also allocate time in regularly scheduled meetings to ask if anyone has any thoughts on your new goals. Or you can request that team members email you individually. Whatever system you use, make sure your team members know that you expect and appreciate honest and open feedback.
4. Align individual goals with team goals
Even though your aim is to set team goals, that doesn’t mean you can’t tie in other professional goals that support your team members’ personal development. In fact, during the feedback process, individual employees might wind up sharing their personal goals and how they fit into the overarching team goals.
For instance, say your team goal is to build brand visibility and increase engagement with your customers. One way you could do that is through a social media strategy. One of your team members might want the experience of building up a social media following and improving their content creation skills. This team member can focus on creating high-quality, engaging content for your company's social media accounts, which directly supports the team's goal of increasing customer engagement and the team member’s personal goal of gaining that experience.
Another team member might have an active network on LinkedIn. If their personal goal is to become a successful LinkedIn influencer, tie those strengths and aspirations with your team’s focus. Maybe they can post thought leadership pieces and be a voice for your company. Or they can reach out to their connections to build partnerships that benefit your business.
5. Be transparent about everyone's roles and responsibilities
To reach your team objectives, you need both high-level individual work ethic and great teamwork. But to have great teamwork, you need clarity on each team member’s role and responsibilities. When your team members knows what their duties are, no one steps on anyone else’s toes, nor does any work get lost or forgotten.
As you establish your team goals, make sure you also create a clear list of the tasks associated with each goal. Then, explicitly assign relevant tasks to your team members and discuss what they'll entail. In some cases, two people might be working on similar tasks. If that’s the case, it’s important they collaborate or share their research and knowledge to do their best work.
Knowledge sharing is an important component of reaching your goals. It can increase efficiency and productivity for your team and your company at large. For example, say you manage a sales team in which one member has developed an effective approach to pitching potential clients, resulting in high conversion rates. This team member can share their presentation templates, research strategies, and tips for personalizing the pitch with the rest of the team.
Create a team charter to establish team roles
Team charters provide clarity and alignment for how team members collaborate, what they’re responsible for, and how their work supports team goals. By creating a team charter, teams spend less time defining who’s responsible for what, and focus more on the work that matters.
6. Create an action plan to track progress
The next step is to create a high-level action plan for your goals with key milestones that everyone can use to track and monitor progress. Action plans help keep everyone focused and accountable so that you can reach your goals efficiently within a set time frame. Whether you have a low-stress goal like implementing new team-building activities or a high-stress goal like closing a big sale, an action plan helps you get there.
Here are a few steps for creating an action plan for each goal:
In no particular order, brain dump or list all of the tasks you know will be involved in reaching this goal
Add due dates and deadlines to each one and re-order the list sequentially
With a clear action plan and deadlines marked on the calendar, you have an easy way to check in on your goals and share progress with stakeholders.
7. Analyze goal progress and team performance
One way to improve your goals or set better ones next time is to analyze what worked and what didn’t each time you pursue a new team goal. This involves both project/task analysis and performance management. If you used the SMART goals approach, then you should already have specific objectives and key results (OKRs) to measure. For example, if your goal is to increase customer satisfaction next quarter, your OKRs might be:
Receive a higher star rating and customer satisfaction scores at or above 90
Reduce customer response time by 15 minutes for each customer
Increase positive survey feedback by 30%
Checking and analyzing these metrics against the performance and hard work of your team gives you the regular feedback necessary to decide if you need to make adjustments to your goals. Maybe your goals were a bit too ambitious, or your team isn't quite ready for a certain task and more training is in order.
Whatever the case, conducting regular check-ins or performance reviews can help you figure out how to set more effective goals going forward.
Team goal examples: ineffective vs. effective team goals
Now that we’ve gone through the ins and outs of setting effective team goals, it can be helpful to see what that looks like in practice. Here’s a look at some examples of team goals, with both good and bad versions:
Ineffective goal examples
Improve team engagement
Become the top-performing team
Start a well-being program
Launch a rebrand
Effective goal examples
Increase employee engagement by 30% by the end of the year through career development opportunities, rewards, and recognition
Increase new sales revenue by 15% by EOQ through a lead nurturing campaign with the marketing team
Increase our project completion rate by 20% over the next six months through a new project management software
Plan our first well-being activity in the next two months by partnering with a wellness brand or gym
Create a rebrand plan and strategy in the next three months and launch within the next six months
Reduce the number of meetings by at least 10% and implement and educate on asynchronous best practices over the next three months
Next steps: Celebrate your team’s progress and achievements
After you’ve set your goals and your team gets to work, it’s important to take every opportunity you can to celebrate achievements. When you evaluate performance and progress toward those goals, focus on smaller milestones, too, not just the major end goals. These can be meeting a deadline on time, developing a unique idea, or implementing a more efficient workflow to be more productive.
Not every goal you set will be reached in the exact time frame or with the exact results you’ve planned for. There are external factors out of your control that influence your team or your business. But if something doesn’t work out, it’s a learning opportunity. And the important thing is to keep morale and motivation up by acknowledging the hard work that everyone put in.
Essentially, it’s about celebrating the process in addition to the results you get. When your team doesn’t get discouraged by missing the mark on a sales goal or a product launch, you can get right back to the drawing board.
About the authors
About the authors
Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.