As a great manager and leader, you need to be making an impact on the larger organization. You need to be doing what is expected, and going beyond. The best way to do this is to drive to a set of motivating and aggressive team or organizational goals!

What you will learn…

  1. How to think about the goals that you create
  2. Writing the goals
  3. Getting the team aligned with these goals

What are Goals?

Let’s start with what goals are not. They are not a list of everything that you need to get done. They do not even need to be comprehensive across everything that you have responsibility for.

What they are is a way to align the organization with the most important things that need to get done. The most important metrics that need to be achieved. The things that will move the needle and make an impact on the larger organization and company.

Goals need to fuel our ambition. They need to inspire us. And they need to drive a level of accountability across a team or organization.

How to Create Great Goals

Good goals align the work of a team or organization to deliver on the things that matter most. Great goals take that one step further by motivating and inspiring a team to do something amazing.

To do this, the goals that you decide on need to consider a number of things.

  • They need to be balanced between internal and external, leaning more externally if possible.
    • If your team or organization works directly with customers, then I would strongly recommend that you lean heavily toward customer-focused goals.
  • They need to align with the goals of the larger organization.
    • You will need to align the goals that your boss puts in place.
    • And you should consider if there is something that you can do to support the goal of someone even higher up in your organization. This will make your boss look good, and you as well.
  • At least one or two should be eye-opening in terms of the impact that they make.
    • Make an order of magnitude rather than incremental change.
    • Consider innovative or transformational opportunities.
  • They need to be possible.
    • You will not get your team to engage if they do not believe a goal is achievable.


It might be valuable to share a couple of examples to cement the ideas presented above.

Example 1: Grow Revenue

  • You might write the following goal – We will grow revenue from our product by 10% during FY19.
  • A better version would be – We will open a new market for our product, driving growth of at least 10% in FY19.

Even though these are both committing to revenue growth of 10%, the second is clearly more strategic. It very likely aligns with the goal that your boss has, but it shows more strategic thinking. It will be harder to achieve as it requires working across multiple organizations to open this new market, but the revenue can likely be achieved even without this new market, so generating revenue from this market will not be critical to achieving the goal.

Example 2: Process Improvement

  • You might write a goal that says – We will reduce the telephone hold time for our customers by 2 minutes during H1 of FY19 (assume the hold time is 10 minutes, then this is 20%).
  • A better goal would be – We will provide a dramatically better experience for our customers when they call by improving hold time by 20% and by enabling callback if they decide not to wait. We will do this by the end of H1 FY19.

Similar to the above example, the goal is really not different in terms of responsiveness. But what is included is a significant new capability that provides the customer with choice. It is more work as a new capability needs to be provided. But it should not add work as the customer would have otherwise remained on hold.

Goal Structure

A LOT has been written about the content and structure of goals. I am a fan of not overthinking this. Just follow the SMART model. SMART goals adhere to the following.

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

The example goals above fit these criteria. The folks at MindTools have done a wonderful job of explaining this in detail. I recommend that you go to their post “SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable.

Gaining Alignment

This is actually the most important part of defining goals, especially when you are looking to impress with the impact that you are having.

There are two aspects of gaining alignment. The first has to do with developing the goals themselves. As the manager, you will need to push in the right way to create goals that both inspire as well as stretch the organization. This can’t be done in one meeting or via email. It will take prework on your part to drive alignment to the vision of what is possible. You will need to talk 1:1 and with the team together about what success would look like, how you might get there, and what support you will need.

Only after you have done this should you get the key folks together to discuss and decide on the goals. My recommendation is to have discussed and come in with some aggressive ideas for what these goals might look like. Share them and discuss. Keep pulling the team away from what is doable to what is possible. Don’t leave the meeting without at least a draft of the goals. This is important to allow time outside of the context of a meeting, for the key folks to internalize the discussion and begin the process of committing.

Schedule another meeting to finalize the goals. Spend 1:1 of small group time to discuss and debate the key aspects of the goal. Work to gain support and resolve concerns prior to the meeting. In the meeting, drive to a final set of goals. If the team is unable to do it, you will need to make the call. Be careful not to create something unachievable!

The last step is to review with your boss. He or she may have thoughts as well. If you have concerns, do the same kind of prework with them as you did with the key folks on your team.

Now on to the second aspect. That is to drive alignment broadly across the team or organization. You need to communicate clearly how these goals align with the larger strategy and help the team or organization to believe they can do something truly amazing.

I recommend that you take a dual-pronged approach. You need to personally go on a roadshow. Get to every team and person. Share a vision for the future, convey your excitement in taking a major step forward, and communicate clearly the goals and how they will help achieve this.

Once you have completed this, your role is far from done. You need to move into a mode of regular updates where you provide an update on progress, convey the positive feedback that you are receiving, share the obstacles that have been overcome, and provide clarity on next steps.

You might think that this is not you. It has to be. If you are to do something significant, you will need your team on board to make it happen. Feel free to do the communication in a format that feels comfortable to you. But don’t skip out on these two critical aspects.

Closing Thoughts

There is nothing more fun than having an impact – doing something that matters. The energy level of your team or organization will be different. Your attrition will go down. Others will want to join you. Your boss and others above them will notice.

Take this seriously. Create goals that motivate and inspire. You will be very happy that you did!

See Also

Limit Time Spent – Avoid Parkinson’s Law

Rethink How to Prioritize


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