Tips for Setting Goals That Align to Business Objectives

Aligning goals to business priorities is a way to evaluate people’s contribution to the company mission and a driver of employee engagement.

It’s a common scenario: your executive team has spent months working on the company roadmap. Finally, you roll out the new organizational priorities at a half-day offsite. Everyone is energized about the plan, but, back at the office, your leaders are tasked with setting personal, team, and individual performance goals that will drive the company’s objectives.

I often see leaders get stuck on this crucial task.

According to McKinsey, 91% of companies with effective performance management systems say they link employees’ goals to business priorities.

Aligning goals to business priorities is a way to evaluate people’s contribution to the company mission and a driver of employee engagement. Employees are more motivated when they understand how their contributions impact the company’s growth. But leaders frequently struggle to filter the big picture into defined sets of outcomes across functions at different levels. They’re worried about thinking too big, thinking too small, and striking the right balance between serving the company agenda and offering personalized career development.

To help with the process, here are simple tips for effectively aligning leader, team, and individual goals with company priorities:

First, frame your thinking:

Goal-setting at the leader, team, and individual levels should consider each entity’s functional domain (what is within their power to change) and motivators (what will generate excitement and instill pride).

Tips for setting leader goals:

Leaders’ goals should focus on how the leader will drive and inspire others towards the desired company outcomes. And, more specifically, how they can make it easier for the teams and individuals they manage to achieve their goals.

  • Sit down with your leaders and ask what within their domain needs to change to achieve the organizational vision.
  • Take your organization’s key leadership competencies, such as communicating, team building, people development, and effective time management, and discuss how that leader could leverage each skill more effectively to drive the desired change.
  • Determine the actions that will have the most significant positive impact and build goals around those.
  • Set goals that measure both actions to be undertaken by the leader and the desired effect of those actions on the team.

Team goals:

Team goals should focus on specific things within the team’s power to deliver, create, or improve that will contribute to the company’s priorities. Keep in mind that teams need clear goals that are aspirational yet achievable.

  • Take stock of team strengths, weaknesses, and what beliefs motivate the team to set goals that will reinforce a collective sense of pride in achievement.
  • Collaborate with the team on a set of proposed goals—not directives—and empower them to define how they’ll accomplish them.
  • Team goals should primarily measure quantifiable outcomes rather than specific activities since how they get there will likely evolve.
  • Teams often need help staying focused and motivated, so set clear milestones and incentives (however small) for achieving objectives toward each goal.

Individual goals:

Individual goals should focus on their contributions to the team’s goals and personal career development.

  • Sit down with individuals and talk transparently about their skills, their personal career goals, and the skills they need to acquire or improve to achieve them.
  • Ask individuals to consider how their skills could be leveraged as a greater asset for achieving the team’s goals. Remember, aspiring leaders will benefit from being given opportunities to step up and drive projects within the team.
  • Give individuals time to come up with a few career development goals and compare them with your own to jointly define achievements that are meaningful for the company and motivating for the individual.
  • Make sure you take stock of the tools individuals will need to achieve their goals and set the expectation that you’re there to support their success.

At every level, goals should be revisited regularly and measured regularly. Each checkpoint is a reminder to praise progress, intervene if there’s been a lack of progress, or adjust goals that may have lost their relevance.

Setting goals that ladder up to business priorities is one of the best ways to ensure synchronized productivity and instill collective pride and accomplishment in the workplace.

Doing so effectively requires balancing the company’s desire for results and the contributors’ desire for purposeful work and personal fulfillment.

Goal-setting is a core leadership skill that requires coaching—on frameworks, positive reinforcement, and communication and intervention techniques.

If you need help preparing your new or veteran leaders to set and enforce business-aligned goals, contact me for a free consultation.



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