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Setting goals is undoubtedly one of the keys to success in business. When individuals and teams collaborate to set goals, they create an environment where everyone is striving to be their best.

However, many organizations go about goal setting completely wrong. New research into the science of goal setting and goal sharing has revealed new ways to revolutionize the way your organization thinks about goals.

In this article, we’ll discuss what pioneers in the field of goal setting are doing today and how you can apply this to your organization.

Why Set Goals?

Almost every organization requires employees to set goals on a regular basis. Few really think about why goal-setting is important. Yet there are many benefits to setting goals.

  • Goals give you a clear focus and direction. Goals help you stay on track and plan for the future. If your team sets a goal to complete a task by a certain date, employees can pace themselves accordingly.
  • Goals allow you to recognize when you’re off track. If the team is not on track, it may be time to re-evaluate. You may need to add new employees to the team or develop solutions to speed up progress.
  • Goals measure how far your organization has come. According to Michael Ogluin, President of Formula PR, “Setting goals provides the clearest way to measure the success of the company.” It's easier to judge progress when you have clear milestones to measure against.
  • Research shows that it works. Goal setting is proven to increase performance in a wide variety of areas. According to research, setting goals helps employees, students, and even professors perform better.
  • Goals give employees something to work towards. A good goal will encourage employees to push themselves and be better.

Setting Goals

We know that having goals has benefits for you and your organization. But how can you set goals that are both challenging and achievable for yourself and your team?

Team and Individual Goals

The Wall Street Journal offers some tips for managers looking to help employees set goals. First, they say, make sure goals align with the organization's mission and strategy. To maximize the effectiveness of goals, every employee’s goals should be in agreement. This doesn't mean every member of a team will have the exact same goals, but all team members’ goals should work towards the same purpose.

To keep everyone in alignment, goals must first be set at the highest level. What are the goals of the entire organization? What about the goals of management and team leaders? Clearly stating higher-level goals helps front-line employees develop goals that match the objectives of the organization as a whole.

It’s also important for employees to have the opportunity to set their goals themselves. When employees have some freedom in creating their own goals, they are far more likely to take ownership of their goals. This, in turn, makes employees more likely to meet their goals.

Creating Good Goals

Not all goals are created equal. A good goal should push you to be better, but shouldn’t be frustrating or seem impossible. Likewise, a good goal shouldn’t be too easy.

It can be difficult to strike a balance between goals that are too easy and goals that are too hard. Many successful organizations use goals known as stretch goals. Stretch goals are goals that seem impossible to achieve.


Download our Stretch Goals goal-setting template

Companies like General Electric and Goldman Sachs use stretch goals to encourage employees to reach for a goal they think is impossible. While these goals sound impossible at first, employees may surprise themselves by achieving the impossible.

The wording matters too when it comes to setting goals. Kris Duggan, CEO of Betterworks, a company that creates goal-tracking software, emphasized this in an interview with First Round Capital. Duggan explained that by wording goals in a positive way, organizations can increase the odds of meeting their goals.

For example, your goal may be to have only one out of every ten customers give your product a negative review. Flip that around when writing down goals. You want nine out of ten customers to give your product a positive review. According to Duggan, this encourages people to try their best instead of just trying not to fail.

Collaboration Makes a Big Difference

It’s not enough just to set goals. Sharing your goals can be the difference between setting a goal and then forgetting about it and achieving goals on a regular basis.

Why Does Sharing Matter?

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that sharing personal goals helps you achieve them. In a 2013 article, Forbes cited a study that suggests writing down and sharing goals with friends boosts your chances of reaching your goals. In the study, those who did not share their goals met their goal less than 50% of the time. Those who did share achieved their goals almost 75% of the time.

When more people know about your goal, those people can help to motivate you. Having others know your goals can also keep you accountable and force you to stay on track.

In the business world, sharing goals has similar positive effects, but for different reasons.

How to Collaborate on Goals

New schools of thought suggest that organizations should allow all employees to view one another's goals. This means a front-line employee could see their manager’s goals. They could also see their manager’s manager’s goals, and even the goals of the CEO of the company. Employees should also be able to see the goals of managers they don’t directly report to.

With this level of transparency, employees can see how their goals align with the rest of the organization’s goals. This allows for greater cooperation across the entire company. It also motivates employees. They can see how they contribute to the success of the whole organization. This enables employees to feel a greater sense of ownership of the organization’s accomplishments.

Goals with Multiple Contributors

Another key aspect of this new way of looking at goals is that goals are no longer personal. Individuals no longer set goals and work towards them alone. Goals can, and should, have many contributors. If a sales manager’s goal is to increase sales by 25%, each salesperson on their team is a contributor. This means every salesperson also gets credit when their manager achieves the goal.

Making front-line employees contributors to a larger goal gives them a sense of purpose. It creates a work environment where everyone knows how they contribute to the company. Additionally, everyone feels that the company values their contributions.

Guidelines for Goal Setting and Collaboration

All this research can be boiled down to a few simple goal-setting guidelines. Follow these guidelines to create the most valuable and achievable goals.

  • Allow all employees to see all goals. Transparency is crucial to success when it comes to goals.
  • Make connections between goals clear. If an employee’s goal doesn’t contribute to the larger goals of the company, they should consider setting another goal.
  • Collaborate on big goals. Your biggest goals, those important goals that are central to the success of the organization, should have more than one contributor. Collaboration increases your chances of meeting key goals.
  • Challenge yourself. Don’t settle for a goal because it seems achievable. Set the bar high. Even if you don’t make your goal, you will likely achieve more than you would have with a smaller, easier goal.

Re-Think Your Goals

If you’ve been setting goals using the same old methods for years, it may be time to reconsider the way you think about goals. Good goal-setting practices can transform your organization. Goal sharing and collaboration creates a positive environment where everyone strives to do their best.

Does your organization encourage employees to set goals? Do you share goals with other employees? Let us know what your organization does and how it works.

Mattias Le Cren
Content marketing & growth hacking advocate. I'm heavily into tech and football. Ping me on twitter: @lecrenm
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