September 30, 2021

How to easily involve your team in goal setting

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Where do I want to go? How will I pace myself to get there? These are the two questions Andrew Grove, former Intel CEO, said were critical to ask when establishing goals. Specifically, Grove was talking about setting objectives and key results (OKRs), a popular team goal setting method. When you make creating OKRs a collaborative process, everyone has a stake in the business, making it easier (and more exciting) for your employees to meet those company-wide and team goals.

Goal setting from the top-down vs. bottom-up

Traditionally in business, goals have been set from the top-down. Leadership identifies company goals and expects teams and individuals to meet or exceed those goals. It’s more of an “I’ll tell you what to do” approach, leaving employees wondering how they were established (and why). When team members have no say in the goal setting process, it’s difficult for them to buy in and see them as realistic. A top-down approach to goal setting can oftentimes set a company up to miss goals simply because the process in setting them lacked clarity and transparency.

Bottom-up goal setting takes a different approach. It involves the team and establishes an interest in the process and end results. Rather than questioning leadership, employees have buy-in from the start. While you can certainly help guide the team goal setting process, ultimately your employees are recommending objectives and key results (OKRs). And when they do this, you’ll see them working hard to get there by coming up with innovative ideas and pushing themselves (and their teammates) to reach them.

Questions to ask during team OKR brainstorming

One way to involve employees in establishing team goals is to invite them to a brainstorming session. As a leader, it gives you an opportunity to offer insight into the overall company from your level. Employees appreciate this “insider look” and it helps them understand why their everyday responsibilities matter. Not only can your team take ownership of setting OKRs, but you can also task them with figuring out ways to meet the team goals.

Here are examples of questions to ask the collective group as they are challenged to identify team goals that will move the needle in your business. Be sure to ask “why” after each question to help everyone dig even deeper.

  • Where do we want the company (or our team) to be one year from now?
  • What’s the most ambitious goal we can think of?
  • What’s the safest goal we can think of?
  • What are the most important things we need to accomplish in the next:
    • 3 months
    • 6 months
    • Year
  • How can we better meet our customers’ needs?
  • What innovative ways can we increase revenue? By how much?
  • How can we build our product/service more efficiently?

Team vs. individual OKRs at work

While it’s certainly important that your employees set individual goals, OKRs are meant for teams. Because of the method’s collaborative nature, in a work setting, they can be difficult to set without input from others. In a Harvard Business Review article by Jeff Gothelf, he says, “A shared objective and quantifiable metrics can help a team to coordinate their activities, align with stakeholders, and act with more than just their own immediate goals in mind. Within this framework, success is measured not by what any one individual does, but rather, by the impact of the team as a whole on the users of the products and services they’re building.”

Involving your team in your goal setting activities has many benefits. Employees quickly feel invested in hitting objectives and remain in tune with the key results that will get them there. Team members are also more apt to bring new ideas, processes, and even bigger goals than you would have suggested to the table simply because they have been given a voice and fully understand your company’s vision.

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