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How to Set Realistic Goals for Your Team


How to Set Realistic Goals for Your Team

Goal-setting at work is undoubtedly important. Research indicates that setting specific and challenging goals leads to higher performance than no goals, or even ‘do your best’ goals which don’t push people.

But goal-setting isn’t just for individuals. Team goals are incredibly useful when it comes to keeping everyone aligned and working towards the same achievements, whilst allowing people to have autonomy over their work. To set and achieve effective goals, there must be alignment between the objectives of the organization, the team and at an individual level: everyone must be working towards the same outcome.  

With only 7% of employees having a full understanding of their company’s business strategies and what they can do to help achieve organizational goals, and 44%, whilst familiar with such goals, being unable to name them, it’s clear that there’s a gap in where things are now and where they need to be in order for company aims to be efficiently worked towards and achieved.

When setting your team goals, it’s key to first understand the purpose behind what you’re asking of them. If the wider team goal is completed, what will it achieve? How will it benefit your organization? Of course, these larger goals can then be broken down into individual ones where each team member is allocated or allocates themselves a specific part of the workload encompassed by the wider goal.

“You must make sure the goals you set for your team align with those of the broader organization. And you must make sure that your team understands, accepts and commits to those goals. 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.” — Wall Street Journal

Come together

When teams have a challenging, meaningful goal to work towards, they come together as a more effective and collaborative unit, committed to their goal. It also eliminates the issue of competition arising in the workplace, and people trying to outperform or “one-up” one another, instead giving focus to the collaborative nature of the work, and ensuring everyone has their own responsibilities and achievements, all of them leading towards one goal.

Write away…

When assigning the goals to your team, it’s great practice to first write them down. Research indicates that writing down goals makes for an 80% higher chance of achieving them. Not only does it mean people are both more sure and more accountable for what they’re working on, having a written goal can also be more motivational. You can assign team goals and have the team divide the tasks into smaller ‘sub goals’; more manageable chunks or milestones which mean everyone can take control of their own workload.

Whilst things should be broken down into these smaller segments, assigning the original goals as something with a wider purpose, relating to organizational aims is way more motivating and will give people a larger sense of purpose and achievement when they reach the goal.


It’s been suggested that using ‘if-then’ goals in order to make things more collaborative and increase accountability is the most useful approach to setting team-wide goals. This works especially well for processes which need to be repeated on a regular basis. For example, if you’re wanting your team to update you on their weekly progress, assign a time during the week at which you’d like them to send you an email update. Putting the idea in people’s heads of a specific time, for example Monday at 12pm, means eventually it will be wired into their brain and the action you’re enforcing will become an automatic response: when it gets to near 12 on a Monday, your team will all be prepared to write and send over their emails. This helps keep people aligned and focused on the things you want: they will latch onto the time and task at hand even when busy or preoccupied with other things.

Putting this kind of thought process in place means you can successfully implement a team goal and have everyone align despite extraneous factors or additional workloads. Research supports this, finding those who created if-then plans were more likely to submit their reports on time than those who didn’t, with additional research showing an improvement in team-work and communication when such goals were used.

Stay in Range

Making goals that range between two numbers is also highly useful. Rather than asking your team to meet a target of 30, for example, ask them to meet between 25 to 35. Research shows that those with a single number goal persisted less with their long term goal than those who were assigned a high-low range target.


Setting SMART goals is also a great way to ensure your team all has useful, clear guidelines to follow, and will make it easier when you break the goals down to an individual level and distribute the workload. Making sure everyone has a clear, concise breakdown of what needs to be achieved ensures everyone is on the same page and there is no doubt about how to work towards completing either individual or team goals. SMART goal criteria states that goals should be specific, measurable, assignable, relevant and timely. So:

  • Ensure goals are specific enough to be useful and not too vague
  • Involve a measurable result
  • Assign each goal to someone who can realistically take on the work
  • Make sure they are relevant to wider organizational goals,
  • Have a realistic time frame in which they can be completed.
  • Now, you’re ready to set great goals for your team. Combine setting clear, useful team goals with regular feedback as to how things are going, and your team will be well on the way to success!
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