How to set goals for your team

You know you need goals to be productive, but establishing the right ones is tricky. They have to motivate your team, fit individual roles, and be aligned with company objectives. Don't worry! We have some advice on how to use and set goals.

Research shows that setting specific and challenging goals leads to higher performance. In order for them to be effective, there should be alignment between those of the organization, the team's, and individual ones. Everyone should be working towards the same outcome and understand how their work is contributing to the bigger picture.

Yet only 7% of individuals have a full understanding of their company’s business strategies and what they can do to help achieve organizational goals. Meanwhile, 44% are unable to name them even when familiar with organization goals. There’s a clear gap between reality and expectations: how can individuals support company goals if they don't know what they are?

Here are 7 steps to set goals for your team and ensure they're as effective as possible.

1. Know what you want to achieve

Before you communicate to your team, think about why you want to set goals and what you hope to achieve with them. If the wider team goal is completed, what are the implications? How will it benefit your organization? An important part of goal-setting is measurement, so ensure you know how you will track and evaluate progress as well as completion, and how this impacts what you want to achieve.

2. Set goals at the team level

Once you've determined what you want to achieve, start by setting goals for the team. When teams have challenging, meaningful goals to work towards, they come together as a more effective and collaborative unit. It helps them be aligned and have a common focus, rather than trying to outperform each another. Of course, team goals can (and should) be broken down into individual ones.

Once you've identified them, write down your goals. Research indicates that writing down goals makes for an 80% higher chance of achieving them.

The more you can involve your employees in setting goals for themselves and the group, the more committed to those goals they are likely to be."

3. Let people develop their own goals

After determining team goals, give people the autonomy to develop their own goals - sitting underneath team ones. Based on their function, they should be able to determine key initiatives and goals that will support the greater team objectives.

Make sure you are available to provide support: help them learn how to develop meaningful and achievable goals by using a framework such as SMART goals. Guide them so they are aligned with the team (and organizational) goals, and ensure they understand the importance of measurement.

4. Set deadlines

Deadlines help the team develop accountability - both to you and with themselves, making the goals more meaningful. A goal with no deadline won't serve its purpose as it could end up constantly pushed back and never achieved. If people start to feel the goals aren't being taken as a serious assignment, they will become discouraged and disengaged.

Commonly people work by quarters so you could set goals on a quarterly basis. This is a relatively long period of time during which to run projects allowing you to set bigger goals, yet short enough to change course if need be. It also means that you can work on a bigger variety of initiatives throughout the year that support company objectives.

If quarters don't work for you, you could try setting project-based goals for example.

5. Track progress on goals

As mentioned previously, goals should be tangible and measurable so you can determine success.

Help your team stay focused by tracking progress. Checking in will allow you to know where to course correct, which initiatives are going faster than planned, and therefore help you re-allocate resources if need be.

Tracking goals also helps teams stay motivated when they see progress, and when they're getting close to completion. Knowing you've achieved something you set out to do, coupled with the sense of accomplishment, are very strong motivators for your people.

6. Help people meet their goals

As a manager and team leader, it's your responsibility to help your people achieve their goals in addition to giving the team direction. There are several ways you can do this:

7. Learn from your mistakes

Not all goals are going to be met. Some may have been set too high on purpose, some may not have been realistic (in hindsight), and some may suffer from unpredictable changes throughout the quarter. That's just the reality of work and the unknowns you have to contend with.

Make sure the team understands it's ok to fail; the goal shouldn't be the be all and end all, it's a way of guiding people's work. Being open to the possibility of failure doesn't mean accepting mediocrity; or that goals don't matter. It simply means no one can guarantee things will succeed. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes: what will we do differently next time? Is there a way this could have been prevented? And move on to do better things.


Above all, the important thing is to remember why you're setting goals and how you can use them to do better work. Each team is different, so try various formats of goal setting until you find one that works for you.

Throughout the process, communication is key to ensure everyone is aligned and understands why goals are being set. And of course, team goals should always be aligned with the company ones, as well as the company vision.

Beyond project related goals that drive results, don't forget to spend time on personal development goals with your team members.

If you're interested in learning how you can support personal development and company goals, explore how goal management within Impraise helps to create alignment and drive feedback to support development across your teams.

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