3 Counterintuitive Tips for Setting Better Work Goals for your Team

Do you know that being too specific could actually harm your work goals' success? We suggest three (possibly) counter-intuitive tips to help you set better goals for your team.

By: Alythea Ho

The ability to set good work goals is essential for any manager who wants to effectively manage his or her team. Clear, well-defined goals help your staff see where they’re headed towards and what each of them needs to do to get the desired results.

When it comes to goal-setting, most people know the usual how-tos – be specific, stretch your team, keep them measurable etc. Yet it’s possible to go overboard in goal-setting, and you end up with a series of goals that demotivate your staff and achieve far below their intended purposes.

To stay on track and effective, try these 'counter-intuitive' tips for better goal-setting:

Create hard, not impossible goals

Goals should be challenging – that’s a given. Your team’s goals should be created in such a way that they inspire your team to reach for something beyond their immediate comfort zone. Problems arise when people start equating challenging with ‘all but impossible’. Goals should not be too hard to the point that attainment lies in circumstances far beyond a person’s control. Goals that are too difficult are not only demotivating, but may also create problems that have far riskier implications for your company.

Research has shown that people are more willing to take risks to achieve difficult goals. That means your staff may, out of desperation, turn to unethical means to accomplish the goal. So set challenging but realistically achievable goals that lie within your team’s control.

Set fewer goals, not more

So many opportunities, so little time. At times like these, it can be tempting to set new goals for your team to ensure you cover all possible aspects at work.

However, the secret to effective goal setting actually lies in setting fewer, not more goals. It’s all about priority. In one study, participants were given quantity and quality goals for a task. They were more likely to focus on quantity over quality if it meant that quantity goals were easier to achieve.

Focus your goal-setting to those with greatest importance and priorities, even if they may not appear as exciting as the smaller goals. Look to the next six months or more, and limit yourself to around three to four goals to work on. Success eventually comes to those who focus properly on a few things at a time.

Avoid being overly specific

Allow your goals to stay somewhat vague. Yes, somewhat vague. Now we’re not saying to toss out all the good goal-setting advice there is out there that talk about the importance of setting specific goals. Being specific is important as you need to be explicit in defining what you want, and set it within a clear, realistic timeframe.

What works against a goal is when it’s overly specific. Goals that are too specific can cause people to forget the big picture and get lost in myopic successes. You often hear this in the workplace when a worker focuses on a particular goal to the exclusion of bigger, more important issues that could have been addressed if he stood back to evaluate.

So allow some vagueness in your goals. This empowers your team to decide over how to do their jobs best. They are more adaptable and can handle more unexpected factors in their decisions. The ability to decide is one reason why job satisfaction is closely linked to a sense of autonomy.


What are some of your favourite goal-setting tips? Share with us in the comment box below!

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