The leaders who make splashes in this world are the ones dared to dream and acted on it. They wrote their vision down and started tracing back the steps it would take to get there. Winning is all about setting and reaching goals.
So how do you motivate your team to move forward? How do you get those old selling techniques overhauled and worn-out training manuals refreshed? How do you get people on board and pulling in the same direction, the one that leads to your goals?
There’s a new kid in town that companies are starting to employ. But truthfully, it’s an idea from the 1960’s that many have won with for years. Roll up your sleeves, grab a cup of coffee, and learn the essentials of Goal-Setting Theory.
What is Goal-Setting Theory?
Goal-setting for teams has been around since before the pyramids. But this theory was developed by Dr. Edwin Locke and fellow psychologist Dr. Gary Latham in the 1960’s. The two spent many years researching goal-setting and identified five key elements that need to be in place to achieve our goals.
The theory they developed is a strategy that engages employees, helping to increase employee motivation and performance. Goal-Setting Theory is based on the premise that setting specific and measurable goals is more effective than setting goals that are generic and unclear.
In Locke’s 1968 article, “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentive,” he showed that employees are motivated by well-defined, challenging goals, and constructive feedback. He laid out how the harder the tasks, the more they’re likely to dig deeper and stretch their skills to reach the goals. Locke found that 90% of the time, specific and challenging (but not overly challenging) goals led to higher performance than “do your best,” goals. Succeeding at the tough stuff leads to positive feedback and a sense of achievement. And of course, that leads to a happier team who in turn is more productive.
For example, setting a goal for your team like, “Create a bold new take on our company logo that shows some movement and reflects our desire to see leaders get ahead” will inspire your team more than a vague goal like, “Revamp our company logo.”
The Five Principles of Goal Theory
Locke and Latham discovered five goal-setting principles that can improve our odds of success:
- Task complexity
Now for a deep dive on each of the five.
They say to be unclear is to be unkind. Be as specific as possible. Remember to set SMART goals! When employees understand the objectives and deadlines, there’s a far less likelihood of misunderstandings. Include what success would look like for your team. Prioritize tasks and responsibilities for each team member. Lay out the plan and purpose for the goal.
Goals should be challenging enough to keep employees interested and focused while working the tasks needed to reach each goal. People are often motivated by challenging goals but make them too challenging and it’ll bring the opposite result. Plan rewards for goals met. People love rewards! You can also create some friendly competition between team members or departments. Just make sure each team member is set up for success and has all the tools and information they need.
Without commitment, what have you got? Disorganization. And that doesn’t get your organization anywhere! Employees need to get the “why” first, then the “how.” For buy-in, throw in some rewards for goals met and make sure they feel like they’re a big part of reaching the goal. In certain cases, it might even be a good idea to let team members set their own goals.
You want to make sure your team is staying on track with each goal. Regular feedback will help with that. You can offer it in a constructive and positive way, and you’ll need to receive it from your team. What’s working and what’s not? This will help to further clarify the mission and adjust the level of difficulty if necessary. You can always move the goal posts if necessary. Schedule regular check ins, group and one-on-ones.
- Task complexity
All end goals should be broken down into smaller achievable goals. Hold review sessions after each goal is reached to congratulate and reward the team, as well as assess the effort taken and if future goals need to be adjusted. Make sure they’re stretched but don’t push themselves too hard! If it seems a team member is overwhelmed, consider allowing a more experienced person to help coach or mentor them. Make sure your goals are simple and your timelines are realistic.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Goal-Setting Theory
There are some serious advantages of applying the Goal-Setting Theory to the workplace. Specifically, it can:
- Provide a clear guideline on how to effectively set and reach goals.
- Engage employees, which boosts productivity.
- Offer employees a sense of accomplishment, increases motivation, and morale, making them excited to show up in the morning.
- Grant regular constructive feedback so employees can constantly improve.
There aren’t many negatives with Goal-Setting Theory, but be warned – performance can trail off if the steps needed to reach a goal are just too difficult. Picture stepping-stones placed just a little too far apart. Goals that are set too far above an employee’s skill set can leave him or her demotivated and self-conscious.
As for the “ugly?” Crazy complex and difficult goals can lead to some risky behaviors! Team members may cut corners and do more harm than good when trying to reach goals in the allotted time. If you heed the advice laid out here, you’ll most of avoid that. But if your team is competitive, consider establishing and enforcing some extra “ground rules” if needed.
The bottom line is, goal-setting works. And Goal-Setting Theory is a powerful way to help your team reach their goals.
Let Us Help You and Your Team Reach Your Goals
For help inspiring your team and reaching your career and organizational goals, consider partnering with a professional coach from Southwestern Consulting. Did you know that in a recent survey, those who completed 12 months or more of SWC Coaching reported a 49% increase in vision and goal-setting before and after coaching? Let us help you get from where you are to where you want to be.
If you’re interested in a free consultation, contact us today to see if professional coaching might be right for you or your team.
[My coach] is highly motivated and professional in every aspect of her career. Her level of energy, commitment and passion to elevate my sales and leadership team to a higher level of performance is evident in every encounter we have had with her. If you are looking to take your team to a level you never thought possible, I highly recommend [my coach] and her company as a great partner to help you get there.
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