12 Jul 2018


While each of us has our own personal ambitions, teams need shared goals and direction to perform at their best.

Words: Alice Hoey

Teams need strong cohesion and clear accountability to perform to their full potential. For those things to be achieved, though, you first need goals, not only for each individual – those personal desires and the weaknesses that each individual must work on - but for the team as a unit. Shared objectives provide direction and purpose, strengthening the team bond, building cohesion and trust, and motivating people to fight and succeed as a group.

What’s more, targets and plans, especially shorter-term ones, give you as the leader opportunities to track progress and reward effort and achievements, which in turn helps you to re-energise team morale and boost confidence.


When making plans, you need to find a balance between focusing on the short-term goals that must be achieved to stay in your job, the medium-term targets, which will keep the team on track in a sustainable and progressive way, and the longer-term objectives, your vision for the future.

Achieving your short-term goals, clearly needs to be the priority, because it is on these results that the success of the team is being judged. Only by meeting these immediate targets will you afford yourself enough time to bring your medium- and long-term plans to fruition. It is essential, therefore, that your team is entirely focused on the task in hand, rather than allowing their thoughts to get too far ahead.

That doesn’t, however, mean that all other thoughts of the future should be put out of mind. Your visions for the medium and long term must be strong and clear enough that they are supported by everything that happens in the organisation. They are the current pulling you along so, even though your decisions and changes might be aimed at achieving short-term success, they should still be moving you in the right direction.

It is important that you regularly communicate your medium and long term visions to your team collectively. Do not assume that your team is always thinking like you. You need to remind them.


It is important that your goals are specific, rather than being vague statements of desire or preference, and whenever possible be positive statements of intent, rather than focusing on trying to avoid negative outcomes. For example, it’s better to say, ‘we will achieve our targets’ rather than ‘we won’t fail to meet expectations’.

You must be able to measure your progress towards them and they must be realistic and achievable, including your long-term aim. This is the end point of the journey, so you need stepping stones or landmarks at points along the way, both to demonstrate that the goal is indeed possible and to map out the processes and time frames for achieving it.

The low-level goals that you’re working towards daily, meanwhile, should be small and have short time frames, so that everyone can see the progress you’re making. Being able to hit those targets gives you valuable opportunities to reward your team and recognise their progress and improvement. This is essential in keeping people motivated and feeling confident, especially when achieving the larger targets may be some way off.


While you want to encourage your team members to think and work for the team rather than for themselves, it’s important to recognise that team goals need to resonate on an individual level as well. Think about how to personalise team goals, so that each member can commit to them while understanding the importance of their part in the puzzle.

You may find that your team responds better to a target with a range, rather than a single aim, so 40%-50% improvement instead of simply a 50% increase. Confidence will grow when the lower end of that range is met, so the team will push to achieve bigger and better things.

It can also help to put your goals down in writing so that they’re sealed in ink, perhaps pinning group targets to the wall somewhere they can be seen every morning. Asking each member to sign their name against their personal targets can add even more weight to their commitment.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, your targets should be performance-based rather than centred on achieving particular outcomes. While it is tempting to attach labels of success and failure to the black and white metrics of results, it is often counterproductive.

A wide range of factors can contribute to final results, many of them out of your control, so it is likely to demotivate the team if they achieve their personal targets, but fail to meet an outcome-based goal. It will also serve to whitewash over all the small victories and progress made by the team during recent times, effort that once rewarded can be pushed to the next level.

If your goals are performance-based, linked to working hard and faithfully putting your plans into action, then the results should take care of themselves.