How To Set Your Team’s Goals

Posted on January 9, 2012.

Some of our readers have asked that we cover some of the essential management topics in more specifics. So here is a brief how-to on goal setting.

Where to start: a team plan. If you work for a larger company, this is usually handed down to you.  If that isn’t the case, then you need to spend some time forming some specific goals that you want to achieve during the year. You need to be as specific as possible, using quantifiable information.

Step 2: Once you have your goals, break them down among your team members.  We suggest no more than 3 major goals per team member because people can’t focus on more than 3 things at any given time.

Step 3: Add the individual goals up. Do they equal the overall team goal? If you are breaking down numerical goals like a number of new customers, or sales revenue targets, you need to think about whether you need to build in some overlap in case someone leaves, or doesn’t make their goal for whatever reason. That way the team can still make the overall goal.

Step 4: Define all the terms. You may think they are all self explanatory, but your team may not.  Make sure they know what you expect and how you are keeping score. The last think you want is everyone keeping their own tally, and using their own definition of what counts toward the goal. Not only do you need to be specific on what counts toward the goal, but also where the information is coming from and when and where the team will see it.

Step 5: Test-drive them. Run through some test scenarios based on what the team has done in the past.  Are there any unintended consequences to the goals, i.e., do they drive any negative behaviors or outcomes? For instance, can your team member meet their goals by adding new customers, but lose more existing customers than they brought in?

Step 6: Write it down.  Give team members a written document with their assigned goals on it. Spend some time explaining and answering their questions.  Make a copy that you both sign to indicate that you did talk about it and that your team member understands what is expected of them and what the consequences are to both meeting and not meeting their goals.

The process is not a very complicated one, but it can be time consuming to come up with goals that are fair, easy to measure, and meet the team or company goals that you want to achieve. Keeping them as simple as possible can help you save time both delivering the goals as well as tracking them. Good luck!