9 Super effective team goal setting activities that actually work (2023 Edition)

Team goals get everyone on the same page to work toward a bigger mission for your startup. But how do you set the right ones?

Team goal setting is a vital aspect of any organization, regardless of its size or industry. It is crucial to ensure that all team members are aligned and working towards the same objectives to be on the right path to achieve success.

And stats are on this side too! According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, teams that set clear and specific goals are on average 12% more productive than those that don't. A study by Forbes also found that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability.

So let’s, as Simon Sinek says, with "Why"!

What drives your business?

Sinek's popular TED Talk "Start with Why" highlights the importance of understanding the purpose or belief that drives your business. He explains that fully grasping the why behind your business is crucial for effectively communicating your message and connecting and building with your team on a deeper level.

The fact is that when you identify the purpose or belief that drives your business, it has a manifold effect on your work, team, and even creating a clear and interesting narrative that resonates with your target audience. An inside-out approach—which focuses on understanding the why before identifying the what and how—can help to align your company's goals with day-to-day activities.

Think about this. When you truly understand the "why", you can communicate this effectively with your team. And when everyone in the organization understands why they can make better decisions that align with the company's purpose and values. Once they're able to see their daily tasks contributing to a bigger picture, like pieces of a larger purpose, greater motivation and a sense of purpose are bound to follow within your team.

Not to mention, this common goal also promotes a sense of ownership and accountability among team members. It helps them understand how their role fits into the larger scheme of things and how their efforts contribute to the company's overall success.

To start with "why" ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why does your business exist?
  • What problem does your business solve?
  • What values or beliefs drive your business?

Once you clearly understand your company's "why," you can use it to guide your decision-making and goal-setting.

An illustration of a bullseye with two arrows sticking out of it. The word cloud around it reads, "Drive innovation; improve performance; increase chances of long-term success; track progress; make data-driven decisions; adapt to changing market conditions"
Organizational goals really bring everyone in your team on the same page

Why do you need organizational goals?

With startups, goal setting is not just a nice-to-have; it is a necessity for truly succeeding in a globally competitive environment.

When you establish clear and measurable goals within your organization, it not only helps to focus the efforts of the team, but also provides a roadmap for growth and progress.

By setting ambitious—yet achievable—targets, startups can:

  • Drive innovation,
  • Improve performance,
  • Increase their chances of long-term success.
  • Track progress,
  • Make data-driven decisions, and
  • Adapt to changing market conditions.

Beyond these amazing positive aspects, setting goals also help to align the efforts of the team, build accountability, and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

However, not all goal-setting activities are created equal. Some are more effective than others, as you will find out in this blog post.

Sketchnote characters Nancy Newman, Francis Love and Lucy Lee running a race on a track
Your milestones must be specific and time bound

9 Team goal-setting activities that will get your startup to the moon

SMART goal setting

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Team goals set using this framework—and broken down into each of these categories—are clearer, have more accountability, and are even more relevant to the organization. For example, a SMART goal might look like this: Increase sales by 15% within the next quarter by implementing a new marketing strategy.

This goal sentence is specific, it's measurable (15% increase), it's achievable because of a shorter time frame than an annual goal, relevant to your organization, and time-bound (one quarter).

An illustration of a 6 panel comic with Sketchnote character Wiz Osbourne. It looks like an action comic, but the words are squiggly lines. The caption above it reads, "Create a vision board for your goals"
Visual representations help you imagine your goals better

Vision boarding

A goal-setting activity that involves creating a visual representation of your team's targets, Vision boarding can be done by creating a physical board or using a whiteboard on a digital tool like Sketchnote. Your team members can then go on to add images, quotes, and other visual elements that represent their goals. This activity helps teams to see their goals differently and can be a fun and creative way to get everyone involved!

Reverse planning

Another vital goal-setting activity in this list is reverse planning, which involves working backward from the end goal. The team starts by identifying the end goal and then works backward to identify the smaller, intermediate goals that need to be achieved to reach the finish line.  Besides helping them detail out an elaborate plan of action, reverse planning can also help teams see the bigger picture and understand how their actions contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Setting specific and time-bound milestones

Setting specific and time-bound milestones is a great way to ensure that teams make progress toward their goals. Milestones are smaller goals that need to be achieved along the way to reach the end goal. Think of these as markers to your destination. These help you see how far you've come and how much longer the journey to getting your goal is. And the satisfaction of being able to see the distance covered by the team is a huge motivator too. An absolute win-win!

Get input from your team

When you set goals for your team, it's extremely vital to let them have a say in it. Without their input, team members can feel a lack of buy-in and commitment, and not feel invested in the goals. Set regular meetings to get their input, and later on, their feedback on the goals as well!

Prioritize and focus

We know that startups have a lot stacked against them when it comes to time and resources. And with limited means, it's essential to prioritize the goals that are most critical to the success of your startup. Focus on a few key ones that align with your vision and have the greatest impact. Cut out the flab to keep your startup shuttling ahead.

Track progress and make adjustments

Once your goals are set, make sure you're tracking progress and make adjustments as needed. Regular check-ins and progress reports can help to ensure that your team stays on track and that goals remain relevant.

An illustration of Sketchnote character Lucy Lee and a colleague sitting across a table with a laptop and two books on the table. They are high fiving and looking very happy
Acknowledging achievements is a great way to motivate your team

Reward and recognize achievements

Recognizing the contributions and accomplishments of your star team members can serve as a powerful motivator toward achieving your larger goals. Small celebrations and acknowledgments reinforce the idea that goal achievement is a collective effort.

Encourage flexibility

Startups operate in a rapidly changing environment, and it's essential to be flexible and adaptable when setting goals. Be open to adjusting your goals as needed to align with changes in the market or new opportunities.

In conclusion...

From brainstorming sessions to making the best use of Sketchnote’s in-built productivity templates and team-building exercises, the activities detailed in this blog post can help to ensure that your team is motivated, focused, and working together to achieve its larger goals.

Whether you're just getting started with goal setting or looking to take your team's efforts to the next level, these activities will provide the tools and techniques you need to succeed. Good luck!

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