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How to set goals to become an effective team

Collaboration & Team Management Task and Project Management

Many teams aren’t productive or efficient. This is sometimes a result of poor communication. Other times, managers make rookie mistakes.

But poor team performance also comes from not knowing how to set goals properly.

It’s not enough to merely say what you want your team to accomplish and then delegate necessary tasks. This will almost certainly lead to failure, according to Dominican University of California research. The study found unwritten goals don’t foster accountability or commitment to others.

But there’s a lot more to proper team goal setting than simply writing things down. Here are some tips on how to set goals and grow into an effective team.

Ask people to simply do their best

This is how to set goals based on the SMART methodMost people follow the SMART method when they set a team goal. This means the goal is specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. But when basing a personal goal off the team goal, it’s important to follow all of these criteria expect for one. Ditch the measurable aspect. Instead, simply tell your team members to do their best.

Here’s an example: In two weeks, your team needs to complete a report to increase its funding by 15%. It’s a specific goal that’s time-bound, relevant to your needs and certainly attainable. But instead of giving a team member a strict, measurable task such as writing a five-page section with six key points about the value of your business’s work, simply say “do your best to write a thorough section about the value of our work.”

“Do your best” goals have quite a few benefits, according to a study about team goal-setting. People who receive these goals don’t feel as much time-based pressure as those who have to meet a specific goal built on completing a strictly-measured amount of work. Without this additional pressure, team members who have “do your best” goals are more likely to search for outside information to handle their tasks. As they learn, they share new and relevant information with their team members. Such informative communication helps the team meet its goal while implementing novel ideas. After all, one of the most important parts of effective teamwork is proper communication.

On top of this, “do your best” goals make seemingly-impossible tasks appear realistic. By simply doing their best to conquer complex jobs, as opposed to struggling to meet a strict expectation, people don’t suffer from the effects of stress that hurt productivity. These include moodiness, poor judgement and lack of sleep. This means telling people to do their best improves their efficiency.

Work together to reach individual goals

It almost goes with saying, but research in the academic study of goal-setting theory shows that performance and overall productivity is greatly enhanced when team members’ personal goals are compatible with the team’s overall goal. For example, if you work in public relations, your team’s goal may be to win more clients. Your personal goal may be to extend the contracts of clients you exclusively handle. The goals are clearly related, as working toward one benefits the other.

Unfortunately, getting team members to enthusiastically commit to work-oriented individual goals can be a challenge.

Fortunately, it’s easy to be enthusiastic when team members are there to support you. One of the best tactics is to update a peer about your goal, according to the Dominican University study. Send an informal weekly summary of the actions you’ve taken, along with a progress report, to a team member. Compared to not communicating at all, this tactic almost doubles the progress people make toward reaching their personal goals on a monthly basis. This shows that teamwork shouldn’t be saved for group goals. Taking a minute out of your day to send or respond to a short progress report is well worth it.

Start from the end, not the beginning

lululemon athletica is an ideal example to follow when learning how to set goals for your team. Though lululemon has received a lot of negative press lately, it’s certainly not due to its famous goal-setting culture. The yoga apparel company encourages its workers to set and chase 10-year goals that are divided into three sections: health, career and personal life.

To meet the 10-year goal, you have to set one- and five-year goals that lead up to it. So if your goal for year 10 is to earn a significant promotion, your goal for year one might be to get that new certification you’ve always wanted. Your goal for year five might then be to receive a minor promotion that could lead to the one you’re ultimately eyeing.

Starting something with the final result in mind has been a popular practice since Stephen Covey published his mega-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. How does this apply to goal setting? It’s easier for our brains to work backwards. Visualize the final stage of a long-term goal — what do you want and how will you achieve it? Then, roughly plan in reverse from the end to the beginning. This gives you an accurate picture of what your steps should be. Your goal will seem more attainable as a result.

Follow lululemon’s example

The importance lululemon’s goal-setting strategy actually lies in the fact that team members are open with each other about their health, career and personal ambitions. They post their goals to the walls of office hallways for everyone to see. As a result, team members with similar goals can group together to meet them. This also improves friendly communication across a business, as leaders and team members are encouraged to openly discuss their goals. In the process, they respect and support each other’s ambitions.

This ensures people stay committed to team goals, as the mutual support that comes from sharing personal goals builds loyalty to a company. People are drawn to work in these supportive environments, under managers that show such respect. Research from the Center for Creative Leadership demonstrates this. More than 90% of people who strongly agree that their managers care about their well-being will stay with their organization for more than a year. On the other hand, 57% of people who strongly disagree will leave their organizations within a year.

Follow the example set by lululemon and other businesses that actively encourage goal setting. When teams openly commit to fulfilling their ambitions, team members will actively help each other and develop a sense of loyalty. Impressive results will inevitably follow from properly learning how to set goals.

How does your team set goals? Do you have any secrets that let you achieve impressive results? Tell us in the comments below!

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