Five Key Characteristics of Goals That Motivate

We are at the starting line of another year. And for the majority of companies, the new year begins with goals.  Now as you are reading this, chances are you have made and already broken your own New Year’s resolution. The most common reason for that is lost motivation or the goal being too far out of reach. As a leader, you want to set clear and achievable benchmarks for your team. Consider these five key characteristics to create goals that motivate your team. They might just work for those New Year’s resolutions too!

1.     Clarity

Clear goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  When a goal is clear and specific, people know what needs to be done and what is expected. Included in clarity is communication—make sure to leave the door open if questions arrive throughout the process of completing the goal. Making goals clear is not just for the employee—it also helps you, the leader, to know what to expect and when to expect it.

2.     Proper Assessment of Task Complexity

For goals that are highly complex, we have to be sure to give people sufficient time to meet the goal and provide the time to practice or learn the skills that are necessary for success.  The purpose of goal setting is successful achievement, so you have to be careful that the conditions around the goal support that success rather than stifle it. Be sure to give an employee access to any information or individuals that can help them along the way.

3.     Feedback

Incorporating feedback into the goal-setting process allows for expectations to be clarified, difficulty to be adjusted, and recognition to be given.  In particular, when a goal is long-term in nature, it’s important to set benchmarks that help people gauge their success and see their achievement. It is also helpful if you can create an open feedback line to ensure communication about the given task does not go stale. If there is a question or misunderstanding, you want it to be addressed!

4.     Commitment

For goal setting to be effective, the goals need to be agreed upon and understood.  While this doesn’t mean you negotiate every goal with every employee, there is value in engaging the people working towards the goal in crafting it.  When we help to create the stretch goal, we are more connected to the challenge and more willing to commit.  The harder the goal, the more commitment is needed.

5.     Challenge

We are often motivated by achievement, so we’ll judge a goal by how difficult we perceive it to be.  If it is too easy, we won’t give it as much attention and energy. Too difficult we might not have the skills necessary to accomplish it. However, if it demands us to stretch ourselves just outside our comfort zone. We are more likely to be motivated to excel and achieve the recognition of a job well done. Challenging ourselves and others is one of the key ways to encourage growth and set employees up for leadership in the future.

Creating goals that motivate (rather than stifle or exhaust) can be difficult. This is especially true when the tasks at hand are complex or in uncharted territory. Consider these five key characteristics of goals that motivate to create an environment of enthusiasm and set your team up for success.

How will you hold yourself accountable to create goals that motivate for your team this year?

Updated January 2023

You Might Also Like…

What Every Leader Should Be Doing

What Every Leader Should Be Doing

Every leader needs a courage zone. When we talk about courageous leadership in our workshops, we talk about the comfort zone. We all have a comfort zone and that is the place where we feel confident and capable. That is also the zone where we are not pushed to learn...

Cultivate Growth

Cultivate Growth

As we bid farewell to winter and begin to see signs of spring all around us, my thoughts naturally turn to themes of growth and renewal. This season, I'm reminded of the immense potential that lies dormant within all of us. Like a bulb buried deep in the ground,...

Why Should You Train for Courage?

Why Should You Train for Courage?

If you are wondering, “What is this courage stuff, and why should I train for courage?” I've got some answers to those questions in this post, plus at the end, I've got a free downloadable resource for you. If you want to learn about courage, you also have to learn...