Try these 5 tips to help your team set and achieve goals

Congratulations if you’re thinking about setting goals for your team. Bonus points if you’re thinking about a better way to set them.

After a year like 2020 (and a not-exactly-normal 2021), too many managers and supervisors decided to ignore team goals because it was a crazy year.

This is understandable, especially if you’re busy with new routines, fewer staff, more patients. The idea of taking the time to set and hit targets can feel daunting.

But it’s a different time now. Leaders like you can use lessons from the past to inform action for the future. Now you can think about what went well or poorly and how that can shape the way you and your staff work together in the future.

Why goal-setting still matters

Helping your employees set and reach goals is a critical part of your job as a supervisor or program manager. Setting and reaching goals is also important to your staff, who needs to see how their work fits in with the larger objectives of your agency. Taking the time to work with them to set targets helps them understand how they’re part of the organization and will positively affect their performance.

Setting up this kind of regular goals check-in on can feel like a lot of pressure, especially if you’re dealing with a new hire or a person who’s been on staff for a while.

Fortunately, going through this process at regular intervals is helps you do your job more easily. It gives you a framework that helps you organize your time and tasks, and establishes benchmarks that will help drive your whole team. You’ll find this especially useful if you work as part of a multidisciplinary team or some of your workers are out with clients or patients most of the time.

Goal-setting such as this helps you all work better together and gives you a concrete instrument for giving feedback day to day and during annual reviews. Setting targets and keeping an eye on them, means you can give your staff input on their performance at any time–while you’re motivating them do more.

Read on to see some best practices for using goal-setting as a way to help your team succeed.

Be flexible with goals

The first lesson since March 2020 is that plans can change in an instant. Some of the training, performance, or quality improvement goals you set in 2019 were probably rendered irrelevant.

You’re right to think about long-term goals, annual reviews, and other rote processes as somewhat outdated.

Next time you meet with your team-members, embrace flexibility. How? Set short-term goals, for the next week, month or quarter.

This strategy will help you use resources more efficiently and respond to unexpected changes in the way you work quickly.

Also, keeping a shorter view can also help a burned out staff stay focused and make some easy wins.

Set goals together—then get out of the way

Working together on setting those goals is important. If your staff doesn’t meet them, it has negative consequences for them, you, your agency, and possibly even your community. So you really need to get involved in helping employees set and meet goals.

Plus, collaborative involvement pays off. Staff members who are told what goals to pursue don’t fare as well as those who explore along with their managers. That leads to a lower job performance.

A top-down approach can leave someone at a loss for why or how their goals fit in. Or they might lack the confidence to meet them. If staff work with you to set goals and decide what strategies they’ll use to meet them will perform better and have higher confidence.

So collaborating at first makes sense, but then step back and let your team get to work. That’s a manager’s job: enable, support, and then provide a boost when necessary, depending on your staff’s capabilities. Read more about transferring this strategy to remote training.

Fill gaps with learning goals

What kinds of goals you set with your staff depends largely on what they do and your agency’s requirements. Those might be tied to data or quality improvement outcomes that are measured by numbers.

Once you set them, then look at what might make them more difficult to reach. In many cases, there could be a training gap. The gap might be:

  1. Individual. If one person lacks the skills to complete a task, they have an individual training gap. For example your new hire needs to do community outreach for your agency, but they don’t have any outreach skills.
  2. Team. Your whole team might lack skills to carry out an initiative, so they have a team learning gap. An example almost everyone can relate to is setting up new protocols for Covid-19.
  3. Organizational. Entire agencies sometimes have a gap in an area and have an organizational learning gap. Many organizations recognize they have gaps in cultural competency and have needed to supplement training in that area.

Conducting a training needs assessment is a critical step when you’re on the path to a goal. You’ll need to know where your team excels and where they need more help. Then, you can acquire new training—either create your own custom training or buy it off the shelf–to help everyone reach goals.

Learning goals might even reach into the future, and they can dovetail nicely with personal goals of your team. You can ask your employees what they’d like to learn in the next month, quarter, or year, and then provide them with training opportunities to get there.

Set regular intervals for goal review

Once you have your goals set with your team, set in a structure to monitor them. Do this early on, and you’ll be glad you did. Checking in early and regularly can help reveal problems before they get too big. Why wait to review goals until a set check-in? Make a habit of reviewing them every week as part of your employee check-in.

Here are some helpful performance review templates you can adapt to your goal reviews: