Are You Setting The Right Goals as a Leader?

Goal setting. This is a topic that comes up way too frequently for us and our clients, and we’re guessing it does for you too.

You’ve probably heard it all too often—“begin with the end in mind!,” “set SMART goals!”, “they’ll help you track your progress!”

But what you probably don’t get as much (unsolicited!!) advice on is just how to get other people on board with them… right?

Yep, we know. Convincing your team to get inspired by the goals you so painstakingly conceived, and to work diligently and wholeheartedly toward achieving them as one 👏big 👏happy 👏 family 👏can be a royal pain… sometimes near impossible.

Yet, especially as leaders, we’re required to do it ALL THE TIME! Whether it’s at the outset of a big project at work, or on a Sunday night mapping out the family schedule, you’re basically always trying to set goals and hoping they’ll magically be met without a fuss!

But how are you really supposed to get your kids to agree to eat their veggies every day and get to bed on time with a smile on their face? Or persuade your totally worn out team that an approaching deadline can be met? Or get a pesky client to approve the milestones you made (super!!) slight adjustments to? #TheStruggleIsReal.

Lucky for you, we think we have the answer! And it’s not a huge secret:

All you have to do is TRICK them into believing that THEY’RE the ones that set their goals — not you!

In other words, strongly encourage participation and let your team take the reins, but manage that process to a tee. Piece of cake, right?

Ok, ok… so it may not be as easy as we’re letting on, but the good news is there are some easy-to-follow tactics that can help you achieve this nifty plan… and we’re going to share them with you.

By the end of this post, you’re going learn how to:

  • Set the right goals
  • Get the buy-in you so desperately need from your team to see those goals through

But first… we have to preface with a little forewarning. Our easy-to-follow tactics are just that — easy. to. follow. But they’re going to need a little something from you to really work… your time.

If you truly want to structure your goal setting process and manage participation just right, you have to be willing to invest the time into doing it. Otherwise, it won’t work.

Ok, that was the end of our spiel. Now on to the good stuff.


Alright, let’s get started.

Below is a list of 10 proven tactics that you want to follow to make sure you’re A) setting the right goals, and B) getting the buy-in you need from your team to see them through:

#1 Be Flexible

You may walk into a meeting with a goal in mind, but remember to stay flexible as you receive new information from your team. The goal setting process is exactly that — a process — and a decision around the best path forward shouldn’t be set in stone until a full list of options has been thoroughly weighed in on and explored!

#2 Encourage Discussion

Remember… there are no bad ideas! Who are we kidding, of course, there are.

But don’t shoot them down. Instead, give your team the time to work through them and lightly steer them in the right direction. They’ll be way more committed to working toward objectives if they feel like they had a meaningful part to play in setting them! And, by promoting participation you’ll also be motivating your team to want to reach the goals they set, and creating that sense of desire is super important for keeping your peeps engaged! A win-win all around.

#3 Establish Guideposts to Tie into the Bigger Picture

Design goals that are in alignment with the company’s overall strategy, mission, and vision. Yep, seems like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how often this mistake can be made.

#4 Invite Feedback Bottom-Up and Top-Down

Nobody has all the answers – no, not even the boss. That’s why it’s so critical for leaders at all levels of the organization to ask their direct reports before making any conclusions: Where do they think gaps need to be closed? Where should things be headed? What are their goals? Using these answers to inform strategic objectives not only makes them inclusive, but more credible.

#5 Make Your Goals SMART

Sorry, we had to say it. But since we know you’ve heard it countless times before we won’t belabor the ins and outs of the rule and keep it real short: remember to make your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. Also, here’s a handy template to help keep you honest:

#6 Be Strategic About Communication

Figure out the best way to package objectives, so that they are digestible and easy to track throughout your organization. Think about how you are going to cascade your messages and maximize coordination around the goals communicated.

#7 Empower others to take the lead

Think about who to include at different levels of the process. Meetings just aren’t as efficient when you try to include everyone, all the time, so designate and divvy up the responsibility to managers at appropriate levels. Enable them to take the lead on setting goals within their teams, and guide them as needed to stay in alignment with the overall business objectives of the company.

#8 Tie Goals in with Reward Systems

Recognize teams or individuals who successfully achieve their goals. Everyone likes a little big-ups and to feel proud of their accomplishments. And you never know, it may even help to motivate some of the lower performers to get it together 😉

#9 Make an Implementation Plan

This is key. There’s no point in setting goals when you don’t know how you’re gonna reach them. Figure out a timeline along which you’re going to check in on progress, figure out who’s responsible for reporting that information back to you, and when. What outcomes are you going to use to tell you that things are moving along as they should?

#10 Have a Contingency Plan in Place

You always need a backup plan for when — emphasis on when, not if — things go south. All kinds of problems can come up along the way and you’re gonna want to be prepared. Anticipate potential problems and figure out how they’re going to be dealt with.

And that’s it! You’re officially an expert on how to set goals AND how to influence others to working passionately toward them!!!

And in case you weren’t taking notes, we’ve got your back! We made a list of all the important points covered in this post for your goal setting pleasure:

Enjoy, and happy goal setting!