Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Defining focused goals, part of Managing for Results.
- When I think about motivating a team, one of the very first devices that pops into my head is goals. If you know how to use them correctly, they will help lift a team's performance to a higher level. The classic take on goal setting is to make them S.M.A.R.T. S-M-A-R-T. That's an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, aligned, reachable, and time-bound. Those are useful descriptions of effective goals, whether you're talking about individual goals or group level goals.
If you'd like to hear a more detailed discussion about the basics of goal setting, feel free to check out one of my other courses here at Lynda.com, called Managing Teams. Now, beyond the classic foundation of goal setting, let's talk about how we might push a little harder. Start by looking closely at your team and consider where they are, in terms of their current stress level. You don't want to turn up the performance pressure if they're already experiencing clearly elevated stress.
Assuming workloads and stress are at more normal manageable levels, you can proceed. The first thing I want you to consider is delivering more than you promised, in terms of your team's performance against group level goals. You'll be setting performance parameters by working with your boss and then with your team. With the boss, be accommodating to their thoughts, and maybe for one or two goals, be a little aggressive, but don't set goals that require your team to be at or above their full potential all of the time.
That's a prescription for burnout. Then, when working with your team to close out the goal setting process, identify at least one or two group goals the team feels you can absolutely exceed. This puts you in a position to deliver a little more than you promised, always a good position to be in. The next idea concerns your span of focus. To the extent you have control, you want to create, or at least focus on, the smallest number of goals needed to maximize your team.
Here's the problem. Most managers fall prey to thinking that more goals equals more productivity. Not really. Every team has a breaking point. You'll want to start with the team goals dictated to you from above, and then slowly push within the team to create more as you see fit. That is, until you start to see any signs of abnormal stress and fatigue, which are signals that you've reached capacity and have to let off the throttle so the team can recharge. Always start with the more narrow focus and then carefully expand.
It's also useful to create a higher level of shared group accountability. The easiest way to do this is to have a group conversation at least once or twice each year that allows everyone to share their personal goals and their progress, as well as any thoughts they have about the group's goals and the group's progress. This candid conversation creates a sense of transparency, a positive sense that we're all in this together, and a feeling that you're obligated to push hard, just like everyone else.
The last thing I want you to consider is the relationship between your group's goals and the goals of a few peer groups who are closely related to your team. You don't want to set goals in a vacuum. Go talk to the two or three managers who run teams most closely connected to yours, then informally chat about how what you're chasing relates to what they're chasing. Working together, you can often find creative ways to help each other and to avoid stepping on each other's feet.
If you want to motivate the team, you need to know the basics of goal setting, but if you want to push them to their potential, you have to go further. To get results, remember what we discussed, so you can deliver a little more than you promised. Stay focused on the optimal number of goals. Talk openly about individual and group goals, and actively consider how your goals help or hurt the other managers to whom you're connected. That's what it means to have focused goals that motivate.
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