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How to Set Team Goals That Actually Work

Motivate your team with team goals that create alignment and improve company culture.

How to set team goals

As inspiring and motivating as a good goal is, more often than not, they fail. 

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only about 9% of participants said they achieved their New Year’s resolution. 

Statistics like these can seem incredibly daunting to managers, the workforce leaders tasked with inspiring an entire team to achieve company goals. 

The situation becomes even more frightening when you realize that high-performing teams rate the communication and achievement of their team goals as a competitive advantage. 

So, how do they do it? How can a manager bring their team together to achieve company objectives when they tend to fail on their own?

In this article, you will learn what an effective team goal is, six steps to help you build successful team goals, and an example of what successful team goals look like:

What are team goals?

Ultimately, team goals are objectives set collaboratively by various groups within an organization to aid the organization in achieving its business strategies. 

Team goals must be set collaboratively. 

Team goals that are set collaboratively motivate your team members and keep them committed to each other, their work, and the organization. But, collaboration is only one of six essential steps in creating team goals that actually work. 

Keep reading to find out what else you need to do to set effective team goals.

6 steps to set goals as a team

Failing to set good team goals leads to failure in reaching them. When teams fail to meet their goals, the effects are detrimental to productivity and performance. 

That’s why understanding how to set team goals that actually work is an essential skill of any great manager. 

Below are six steps you need to help you set realistic team goals. When goals are achievable they motivate your entire team, ultimately boosting performance and productivity

1 Create alignment between team goals and company goals

Every team must align their goals with the business strategy of an organization. If teams are not helping the business reach their long-term goals, they act as a hindrance rather than an asset. 

Be sure team members understand the bigger company vision and how their work aligns with making that vision a reality. Aligning team goals with company goals helps your team connect to company culture

When employees understand their business’s direction, they’re motivated to rally behind that vision to make it a reality. 

Learn how realizing a shared vision helps team members work together more productively in the article, How to Create a Shared Company Vision that Will Energize Your Entire Team

2 Use data to set targets 

The next step in creating an effective team goal is to know what’s realistic for your team to achieve. 

Goals need to be challenging and attainable. 

A goal that is too easy is uninspiring and creates disengagement, but a goal that is too ambitious is daunting and disheartening. As a team manager, it’s your responsibility to find the balance. 

The best way to find a goal with just enough of a challenge while still being attainable is to look at past data. 

Be honest with what your team has achieved in the past and what is crucial for them to accomplish to increase their performance and output. 

3 Motivate your team through collaboration

Many managers think that brainstorming is the best way to involve team members in goal setting, but this isn’t the case. Brainstorming hinders the creation of team goals because it creates group-think. 

When teams brainstorm, they list ideas as a group, which often results in teams getting anchored in one stream of consciousness because everyone gets attached to the first idea. 

Brainstorming eliminates free-flow thinking and disengages your team, causing a decrease in innovation. Instead, teams should use design-thinking methods when setting team goals. 

Design-thinking is accomplished in three easy steps:

Step 1: Individual brainstorming 

Start by posing a question to the entire group. On individual sticky notes, each member of the team must write down their answers. This avoids anchoring and early judgement. 

Step 2: Collective pattern finding 

In this step, everyone provides their answers from the sticky notes. As a group, the team looks for patterns and common themes across all of the answers. 

Source: Unicorn Labs Team Retreats

Step 3: Grouping and summarizing 

Once themes have been identified, you must group and summarize them. This process allows you to determine the group’s collective knowledge.

Design thinking methods motivate your group members by engaging them in the process. While outcomes are important in goal setting, it’s arguable that the process is more so. 

If team members are not motivated by goal setting, they will not be committed or aligned, which will result in group failure to meet team goals. 

4 Set specific team goals  

Studies show that goal clarity is the number one factor of successfully achieving individual goals. This same theory of goal clarity can also be applied to team goals. 

Marieke & co. showed that teams with higher levels of goal clarity performed better than their counterparts. Clear goals activate the motivational mechanisms of our cognition that stimulate high performance. When team members know what is expected of them, they know what they need to do to accomplish that objective. 

Clear goals are best achieved through SMART goal setting, which breaks down a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goal. 

To better understand how to set clear goals through the SMART goal system, check out Unicorn Lab’s Guide to Remote Team Management

5 Allow team members to set individual goals

Nobody wants to be micromanaged so it’s important to let your team members set individual goals within the team goals framework.

Marieke & co. mention that self-management also helps to increase goal clarity and accountability. When team members set their own goals, they’re forced to communicate with their team and exchange information, which helps keep a clear picture of reaching the overall team goal. 

Self-management also helps team members enhance their professional and personal development. 

This allows team members to set their own goals and also helps with performance management as it’s an easy way for managers to assess individual employee performance.

6 Keep track of your team goal setting

Although this may be the last step, it’s also one of the most crucial steps. Without measuring a goal’s progress, you can’t measure its success. 

There are three easy steps in measuring the progress of team goals. 

Step 1: Set ‘sub-goals’

Layout team goals step by step. 

Each step acts as a milestone towards your larger goal, and you can see where your team gets stuck and needs extra support. 

Step 2: Take time to review

Book an hour in your calendar to review goals at a quarterly rate. 

When you set aside time to review and track the progress, you understand what’s going right and where your team might need to pivot and try something new. 

Step 3: Write out the goals and publish them

Take the time to write out the team goals together. 

You also want to share these goals publicly with the entire team for easy access. You can use a collaborative tool like Fellow to keep track of everyone’s goals and progress:

Weekly Deliverables
Learn more about Fellow’s Streams Feature

Allowing easy access to overall team goals allows individual members to check in on their progress to make sure it’s aligned with the teams. It also helps to keep the plan at the top of everyone’s mind. 

Now that you have a clear understanding of setting team goals, let’s test them out with an example. 

An example of how to set team goals

Let’s say your company has the lofty goal of reinventing the bicycle industry with electric bikes. 

First, your leaders will set clear company objectives, such as building a specific type of motor and a light carbon frame. 

You then use these objectives to come up with key results for your team. 

For example, if your team is building the light carbon frame, you’re going to need to:design the frame, get the frame approved, get supplies for the frame, put the frame together, and test the frame. 

Every team member on the team must collaborate to develop the overall team goal of building the frame through specific metrics. Then individuals will work to align their individual goals with the team objectives. 

You will then set quarterly team goals for everyone to meet on a specific time frame to deliver the bike frame. 

These time frames help you track and review the progress of your team. 

The overall process of this type of goal set is called OKRs.

The Fellow team has developed the following OKR goal-setting template to help you with this process:

Walking through examples like this helps you solidify your understanding of implementing team goals that will help motivate your team and achieve business objectives. 


In this article, we discussed what team goals are and their importance. We shared six steps you can use to set team goals that work and an example to help you understand how to implement these steps. 

Hopefully, you now understand that businesses can’t achieve their objectives without effective team goals. From this article, you also understand the importance of aligning team goals to the business’s mission and ensuring your team is included in the goal-setting process. 

Finally, you must now know that clear goals are essential to success and that you must allow team members their autonomy within team goals. 

Setting effective team goals is an essential part of being a successful manager. Use this article to help improve your management skills and the performance of your team. 

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