Dear Dr. Scott,

Developing Digital or Face-to-Face Team Goals Require These 5 C’s

As a business leader, I thought I was decent at getting my work teams motivated to work together toward the completion of goals. But I need help. Sometimes I feel like I’m herding cats trying to keep people on the same page with where we are headed.

I oversee 5 virtual work groups and have competent department leaders heading up each group. When I click “Off” from a web-conference to end a meeting with these leaders I often think, “Good, it seems like my leaders know where we are headed and they should be able to get each of their work groups to reach these goals.”

But then it doesn’t seem to take too long for my wishful hopes to unravel as reports of data and also group conflict come my way. What am I doing wrong in trying to set up effective goals for my virtual teams? Can you give me some insights to help my work teams reach their goals?

Signed, Vastly Vexed in Vermont

This is a common question for leaders of virtual work teams, as well as those who work primarily face-to-face (F2F). Oftentimes, to a leader of a group, a team goal may seem almost obnoxiously obvious…like, “Of course this is the goal! Isn’t it clear that the group must reach this goal with excellence and timeliness?”

But “assumptions get us nearly every time” (one of my favorite sayings!). And if a leader assumes that group members recognize the same priorities and goals as they do – well, that may be an initial problem in the scenario of a group not all pulling together to complete the same goal!

So here are insights I’ve offered to a leader client caught up in the struggle of establishing effective team goals for virtual work groups.

NOTE: To be sure, these “5 Components (C’s) of Effective Team Goals” work in the F2F setting as well! The main difference is that the leader of virtual groups must be much more in-tune and aware of being highly intentional in addressing each of these components to improve the performance and success rate of virtual teams they lead.

How will it look when the goal is reached?

5 Components (C’s) of Effective Team Goals

1. Clear Goals This is the “what” of the goal. What is the overarching objective? Where is the desired destination? Does every member of the group possess the same clarity about this group goal? As the leader, have you confirmed this?

Compelling goals stir a desire to contribute

2. Compelling Goals As the leader, have you crafted a vision of this goal’s desired end state that is motivating to the group members? Have you addressed the, “What’s in it for me?” question that each member mentally asks? Have you shared this group goal in such a way that you create in every member a desire to contribute? Are they authentically eager to reach this goal?

3. Cooperative Goals

Cooperation increases when team members feel needed & valued

Because we know that a high-functioning team works as a system with well-oiled parts that must be working in synch, as the leader have you identified a role for each member in the group? Have you indicated how each role is needed and valued? Have you confirmed that group members know their role (and the value of it)?

Challenging goals seem outlandish - but "do-able"

4. Challenging Goals Have you heard of the term “Stretch Goals” when talking about setting milestones with meaning that seem almost out of reach…but are still quite possibly attainable? Well, that is what I mean by setting challenging goals for your work teams. Team members need to believe that it IS possible to attain the goal; and they must realize that it will take cooperation among team members to make it happen. If they believe the goal is completely out of reach, good luck engaging them! If they believe the goal is so easy that any two members could complete it on their own, quite possibly members will sit back and wait for the little effort they believe is required to come from other members! As a leader have you planned this as a strategic, important, and challenging goal?

Commitment means, "I'm on board! Let's go!"

5. Commitment to Goals Have you invited feedback from group members during the discussion you’ve led about this fresh, group goal? Have you asked (specifically) for your group members to express that they’re “on board” with this group goal? They don’t have to love it; but they must be moved to a point beyond being willing to “live with it.” When you can get them to verbalize out loud to themselves AND the group that at the least, “I’m on board,” the group’s commitment level goes up exponentially. And almost more importantly, have you as the leader expressed that you are not just “on board” but that you are fully committed to this goal?

So if you identify with the issues vexing the leader in the intro e-mail to this post about:

  • how to set up effective goals for your virtual teams, and
  • how to help your work teams reach their goals,

employing these 5 Components (C’s) of Effective Team Goals will be of help. If these issues resonated with you, there are 3 things of which to remain aware.

a)    As a leader who desires to develop effective team goals that your teams get behind and work together to make happen, YOU must take the time to think through and plan for how to communicate the 5 C’s of Effective Team Goals with your team.

b)   As a leader who desires to share team goals with your team of leaders who must then go cascade this information about the team goal with those they lead, you must plan for how to communicate the 5 C’s of Effective Team Goals with your group of leaders.

c)    As a leader who oversees numerous work groups (each with a leader), if you want those groups to reach team goals, you must do a) and b) above, AND teach the leaders of those groups how to do the same with the members in the groups they lead.

Our dear Vastly Vexed in Vermont leader diligently prepared to share team goals in these ways. The results? Team members collaborated cooperatively toward the clear, compelling, and challenging goals they were committed to reach. Motivation and momentum mixed to make results happen.

How can you articulate the 5 C’s of a current (or soon to be) team goal (whether it is a virtual or F2F team!) to increase the likelihood of your team(s) reaching it?

By Dr. Heidi Scott – Leadership and Organizational Development Specialist – consulting with and coaching leaders across industries

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