Active Alignment: Strengthening Your Team Via Goal-Setting

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” — Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich

Active Alignment: Strengthening Your Team Via Goal-Setting by Laura Stack #productivityAs a leader, you bear most of the responsibility for whatever your team, division, department, or organization becomes while under your supervision. Yes, the performance of individual team members can determine your crew’s success or failure; and yes, organizational rules may constrain you somewhat. But nonetheless, the onus is on you to make sure your people produce. If your team fails, you’ve failed.

Of course, if your team fails, you can try to simply duck any accountability, as many business leaders have done in recent years—or you can face the music, as Lee Iacocca did in the 1970s and 1980s. More than once, Iacocca cut his own annual salary to $1 a year while cleaning up Chrysler. It was his responsibility, and he held himself accountable for it.

Guess which approach I recommend?

Life will improve for everyone if you don the spectacles of experience and take advantage of the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Again and again, you’ll see that organizations fail when they lose track of what truly matters to them and their marketplace. This means you have to set clear, specific team goals that you’ve fully aligned with your organization’s mission, values, principles, and strategic priorities. These goals matter deeply, because as motivational guru Jim Rohn pointed out years ago, “If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.”

Building YOU

Rohn spoke from hard-won experience. When he entered the workforce in 1955, he earned $57 a week as a store clerk. Upon discovering multilevel marketing, he set personal goals for success and built himself into a millionaire by 1961. He repeated the rags-to-riches cycle soon after, when his company failed, and he lost it all. Shortly after rebuilding his fortune, he discovered he had a knack for public speaking. By the time he passed away in 2009, he was one of the best-known motivational speakers in the world, having influenced many of us active in the field today.

Steps to Success

Once you’ve set your goals, over-communicate them to your team. You can’t say it enough. Remind your team members why their efforts matter and what you expect. When they see how personally committed to and excited about the goals you are, the more likely they’ll be to take ownership of their jobs and put in the discretionary effort required to make those goals a reality.

Try these tips to strengthen your team’s goal-setting traditions:

1. Set realistic goals. Don’t aim low but don’t overshoot the target either. Know how far your team can reach, collectively and individually, and set your goals just a tad higher. Even if they miss the mark slightly, they’ll earn a respectable score. If they hit the bull’s-eye, they might be able to aim higher next time.

2. Break down big goals into manageable pieces. This keeps the larger, more complex goals from overwhelming your team. One subgoal builds on the next, right on up the ladder.

3. Focus on one to three major goals if possible. Rather than divide your attention between twenty goals and do none of them really well, pick one to three goals (five maximum). Multitasking works no better for goal achievement than it does for individual productivity; you’re better off single-tasking in a fierce, focused way.

4. Eliminate self-sabotage. Constructive criticism is fine—it comes with potential solutions—but you should immediately squelch negativity within your team. You may not be able to do away with negative self-talk among its members, but you can certainly discourage it and call out blatant attempts to de-motivate. Straighten out employees who seem determined to destroy team unity with their bad attitudes.

5. Avoid groupthink. Honest discussion and disagreement about best how to reach a goal is healthy, as long as it doesn’t undermine the goal itself. Among other things, it keeps opinion stirred up, so it doesn’t turn into groupthink. If you all think so alike you can’t see problems or solutions obvious to outsiders, then why bother setting goals at all?

6. Celebrate when you achieve a goal. Have a party, give everyone a gift card, or take everyone to lunch as a reward for hitting a goal. This provides immediate gratification, in addition to the delayed gratification you’ll receive later.

A Parting Shot

Then start over! Don’t let your team rest on its laurels too long. Once you’ve achieved and celebrated the goal, present them with another to shoot for, so they don’t get bored and lose their edge.