Culture Amp, Director of People Science - Performance
Organizations demonstrating high performance are often good at adapting to the increasing pace of innovation and technological advancement. One of the most significant shifts companies have made is moving from a focus on efficiency of individuals to a focus on adaptability and shared team goals.
Research has shown that compared to individuals, teams typically innovate faster, identify problems earlier, and produce more effective solutions. As a result, companies are evolving the way they engage, enable, and reward their teams.
John Doerr, a venture capitalist and business author, says, “There’s a new way of organizations and teams that are powerful. They are deeply transparent - and as a consequence, very open - and they’re collaborative. Instead of being hierarchical and top-down, they’re networked in rich relationships with others that are trying to get their work done. So, whatever you can do to enhance those values, you’re going to have a higher-performance organization.”
One of the most powerful ways to enhance performance and drive success at the team level is to align team goals. In this article, we take you through the factors which influence how successful goals are, as well as tips you can apply to your next goal-setting process.
Five factors that influence team goal achievement
It’s important for managers and leaders to understand several factors that influence whether or not a team achieves its goals.
Frequency of setting and reviewing goals: Writing clear, effective goals takes practice. Collaborating in that process helps drive the quality of goals. The more frequently individuals and teams review goals, the better they get at creating them. Some companies set quarterly goals and evaluate progress every two weeks. Other organizations set 6-month or annual goals with a monthly or quarterly evaluation cycle.
Feedback on progress
Closely related to the frequency of setting and reviewing goals, individuals and teams need feedback on progress and action strategy (i.e., how they’re working to achieve their goals). Feedback from leaders and colleagues is an opportunity for recognition and, when necessary, course correction. If a team doesn’t understand how well they’re tracking on their goals, it’s impossible to adjust the level or direction of effort to accomplish the goal. Keep in mind: The level at which you provide feedback is a shortcut for employees to figure out what is important to your organization. If team-level performance is important, it’s critical to evaluate progress and provide feedback at the team level.
Satisfaction and goal difficulty
People rarely derive satisfaction from achieving something that is easy. Elevating the difficulty of attaining a goal (within reason) not only improves performance but drives greater satisfaction when the team succeeds. We don’t cherish what we don’t work hard for.
Recognition and rewards
Goals and the key milestones along the way act as a tangible reflection point for recognition and, when appropriate, rewards. Recognition and rewards act as motivators for sustaining effort and focus when things get challenging. Rewards don’t always have to be monetary in nature; they can include incentives like team-level recognition, time off, celebratory offsites, fun team-building opportunities, or better yet: something that the team chooses. Ever heard of the “high-performance cycle”? It’s a term referring to the upward cycle where high goals lead to high performance which in turn leads to rewards, which then results in higher satisfaction and confidence, which in turn leads to setting even higher goals on future challenges. This is the kind of cycle nobody complains about getting stuck in.
Five factors that influence commitment to team goals
Because it's so important, let's dive deeper into commitment. How can leaders elevate commitment to goal outcomes in their teams?
Here are five science-based tips:
Alignment and importance: Leaders should not only set a good example by sharing their own goals, but they also need to set an inspiring vision and communicate how important each team’s goals are in helping achieve that vision. Alignment of team goals to company-wide goals is critical to establish how each team’s efforts contribute to the organization’s success. Teams with goals that are not organizationally-aligned often suffer from a lack of sense of purpose and impact in the long-term. Likewise, alignment of employee-level goals with their team’s goals is equally important: when individuals’ goals are aligned with their group’s goals, team performance improves.
Transparency and visibility of goals to others: Sharing goals publicly enhances commitment by establishing a virtual social contract and making action and follow-through a matter of integrity in the eyes of the team members and others. Therefore, leaders should ensure that their team’s goals are visible and have been communicated to relevant parts of the organization.
Participation in setting goals: Employees who are involved in the goal-setting process set higher goals and have higher performance than those whose goals were assigned by their manager. Though it’s easy to assume these performance outcomes are strictly a result of improved motivation, much of the performance increase actually comes from the cognitive impact of the information exchange that happens while collaboratively establishing goals. Participative development of goals not only results in greater clarity around expectations but also produces more effective strategies for how to achieve them.
Ownership and accountability: Each team must take full accountability for their goals (participation in goal setting helps). Yet it’s still critical that a single individual takes ownership of the process and outcomes to keep the team on track.
Documenting the goals: It may sound old-fashioned, but there’s research to prove it: detailing your goals in writing or in some reviewable, visible way increases commitment to achieving goals.
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