How to Set Team Goals that Get Results

Rumor has it that during a 1962 tour of NASA headquarters, President John F. Kennedy made a slight detour. Breaking away from the larger group, he crossed paths with a janitor. JFK greeted the man with an introduction then asked, “What do you do here?”

The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

With this perspective, can you imagine how fantastically the janitor must have performed every aspect of his job?


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Consider what might have contributed to that janitor’s perspective and approach to work: I’m willing to bet that he had a great leader or manager. This leader really understood how to set goals that drove his employees — and his team as a whole — to achieve something greater than isolated tasks. The key to motivating, man-on-the-Moon type goals? Alignment.

Many managers don't give alignment around employee goals a second thought. Admittedly, some work can still get done without alignment: your sales team will still sell, your IT person will still fix computers, and your interns will still go on coffee runs. But you could be getting so much more out of your employees!

So, back to our JFK story. How do you set goals that change the course of human history?


Consider a few key areas to align with your employees during goal setting for stellar employee performance:


Mission Alignment

When considering how to set goals, start with the "why." Knowing you’re a part of something bigger than yourself is a great motivator. Make sure you explain how your team’s goals are a part of a whole. Whether it be at the organizational level or the departmental level,  share how their effort and work will contribute to the big picture. (This is what the janitor had in spades!)


Expectations Alignment

Employees won’t know how they're performing if they don’t know what’s expected. This is what makes goals so important in a manager/employee relationship. Start with a conversation to share your perspective and collect theirs. Clarifying expectations together will empower employees to work without second-guessing themselves. Aligning on expectations will also lead to constructive performance conversations in the future.


Ownership Alignment

Employees are more motivated when they feel like they own their work; so make it clear to employees that they are independent owners (not their manager's minions). So while it’s wise to for managers to provide guardrails, you should give employees the freedom to craft their goals in ways that resonate with them. Freedom of language, milestones, and timeline can give employees a heightened level of ownership. This, then, creates a sense of responsibility to ensure the goals are accomplished.


Contribution Alignment

While not all goals can be a group effort, encourage your teams to consider how they will work together to achieve more. Put these partnerships down in writing (or better yet, in a goal software! Learn the goal-setting software must-haves.). How does each person contribute to the success or failure of teammates? And how does this synergism play out when it comes to goal setting and tracking?


Let these principles guide how your team sets goals. Because, at the end of the day, aligned goal setting results in increased transparency, supportive employees, higher levels of achievement, and greater employee engagement — even if you're the guy who sweeps the floor.



For more goal-setting tips, download a free guide to 5 Sure-Fire Ways to Set Goals That Get Results.

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Published March 15, 2018 | Written By Anthony Edwards