As a leader, how much time are you spending setting the vision and tone for your company versus wading into the details or putting out fires? Your focus should be to create a great team and give them the tools to produce the results you want. However, the biggest challenges leaders face are trusting their teams enough to set the right goals and holding teams accountable once the goals are set. Many leaders think their employees should be given direction to get the job done and find it difficult to trust even their A players with defining goals and making key decisions.

By micromanaging and being involved with every goal or decision, you are creating a bottleneck and demotivating your best people. Therefore, you need to come to terms with any trust issues. Leaders need be learn to be more collaborative in goal setting by giving their team’s ownership for setting goals rather than setting goals for them.

So how can you implement team centered goal setting? Following are five steps you can take toward trusting your team to set the right goals and measures to hold them accountable for the goals.

1.  Define and Communicate Core Ideology – Leaders need to define a core ideology or framework to guide teams and employees so the right goals are set—core purpose, core values, and BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals). Core ideologies are the “almost never changing” foundation of your organization and are made up of your core purpose and core values.

  • Core Purpose: This is the “why” of the organization, and it is not just about making a profit. Your core purpose answers the question, “What difference are we making in the world?”

  • Core Values: This is the “how” of the organization. Core values are a non-negotiable handful of rules your organization lives by every day.

The right core purpose and core values act as a set of guiding principles for the organization. This allows leaders to stop micromanaging and give more freedom to their team members.

Jim Collins, co-author of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, defines BHAGs as ambitious long-term goals that galvanize successful companies. He writes, “The power of the BHAG is that it gets you out of thinking too small. A great BHAG changes the time frame and simultaneously creates a sense of urgency … A BHAG helps you build a great company; because if you don’t have a great company you can’t achieve the BHAG.”

Collins further states that the BHAG is not a modern management idea. It has been utilized throughout history and cites many examples, one of which is IBM. “In 1925 there was a tiny little company called the Computing, Tabulating and Recording Company. Tom Watson changed the name to The International Business Machines Corporation. Tom Watson Jr. writes about looking at his father and thinking, you mean that little company? But Watson was setting a BHAG that it would become THE International Business Machines Corporation.”

2. Create Corporate Targets and Goals – The leadership team should work together, annually and quarterly, to define financial targets, key performance indicators and, most important, the top two to four priorities for the organization—what does the organization need to accomplish or improve upon over the next ninety days? Good leaders and managers set goals for their teams and create an accountability structure to manage and measure results. Exceptional leaders take that idea one step further by allowing their teams to set their own goals, which allows them to take more ownership and accountability toward their accomplishment.

A team centered goal setting process can work as follows:

  • Conduct a team planning meeting where you focus on two objectives:

– Ensure the team understands the organizational vision and strategic goals or initiatives.

– Ask your team to work together over the next week to identify four to eight key metrics that will drive the team toward the accomplishment of the organizational goals. (i.e., number of sales meetings, number of new clients, number of referrals, customer retention rate, etc.).  For each metric, they should also work together to set team and/or individual goals.

  • Conduct a follow-up team planning meeting to review the metrics and goals your team has developed. Push back if you are uncomfortable with either the metrics or the specific goals. Make sure your team is aggressive, but not unrealistic. Just because your team is setting its own goals does not mean you should not provide strong guidance when necessary.

3. Create Departmental Targets and Goals – With these corporate targets and priorities in mind, department leaders should work collaboratively with their teams quarterly to set targets and priorities within their own departments. As much as possible, these goals should align with the corporate goals.

4. Create Individual Targets and Goals – Department leaders should then ask each member of the team to create their own goals in alignment with department and corporate goals. In other words, how will you help the company succeed?

5. Implement an Accountability Process – Most important, a scorecard and meeting rhythm needs to be put in place to hold individuals accountable for these goals and to adjust the goals as necessary weekly and monthly.

Most company dysfunctions sprout from a lack of communication and alignment. The problems spiral downward as leaders feel they have less time for meetings because they’re putting out fires. Leaders need to understand that implementing the right meetings, with the right agendas facilitated in the right way, will actually save them time and increase productivity throughout the organization.

 Meeting rhythms should include the following:

  • Annual Planning: This is typically a two-day retreat where the old plan is assessed, the current realities are tested, and the new plan is formulated.

  • Quarterly Planning: Emphasis is on reviewing and resetting priorities and goals for the next thirteen weeks.

  • Monthly Management Meeting: This serves to promote directed review and education opportunities.

  • Weekly Meeting: This serves as a status and update session for the entire team at either executive or departmental level. More time is spent dealing with deeper detail and examination/education on an operational/tactical level.

  • Daily Huddle: This stand-up meeting facilitates daily synchronization for the entire team at executive and departmental levels. Information is shared either up or down the reporting chain. This session is designed to expose issues that need resolution, not necessarily to resolve them on the spot.

 Goals Equal Growth

When you set the vision and tone for your firm—instead of putting out fires—and rely on your team to set goals and get the job done, your team takes ownership and leaves you more time to focus on what’s  important to grow your business. Your shift in focus empowers your teams to have greater impact while increasing morale, which leads to stronger bottom line results.

About the Author

Mike Goldman is a nationally recognized speaker, consultant and author of the new book Performance Breakthrough: The Four Secrets of Passionate Organizations. Mike helps organizations of all sizes achieve dramatic business growth. For more information visit: or connect with him on Twitter @MGoldman10.