225 - 3 Ways To Make Sure Stretch Goals Don’t Tear Your Team Apart
“The targets they’re hitting are an improvement over last year, so we’re good.”
In a static world with no change in customer demand, competition or costs, that would be sound logic. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in.
Should we do away with stretch goals? Should we only ask our people to achieve conservative objectives? Absolutely not. There’s nothing wrong with stretch goals, but with only a 50 percent success rate, something’s wrong.
When I studied how teams performed in some of the most dangerous and challenging environments on the planet, I realized they were only given stretch goals. These employees had to go above and beyond every single day.
Unlike most organizations that have trouble with getting people to show up on time and put in eight full hours of work, these rare teams were asking their people to work multiple days without sleep, underfed and thousands of miles from home.
Surprisingly, these high-performers had between a 98 percent and 100 percent success rate in that environment.
Take a moment to imagine what effect that kind of success rate would have on your big objectives. Now, how can you make sure your stretch goals don’t snap?
1. Start with the end
When most organizations plan their goals, they look at last year’s results, what they think the market can bear this year, and they choose an objective somewhere in between. Unfortunately, setting objectives on that information doesn’t take into account long-term strategy or innovative disruption.
Instead of relying on the current market or past results, begin by building goals that help your organization reach its unique long-term objectives.
2. Reach into the ranks
Most organizations simply hand down goals to the people responsible for executing them. If the goal is achieved, the leadership team looks stellar. If it fails, it must be the fault of employees. That kind of planning process destroys culture and disenfranchises employees — not to mention, wrecks results.
As you set your next objectives, bring in the people responsible for executing them and ask if they think the goal is feasible. If not, ask what resources they would need to feel comfortable. Whether it’s additional support, training, technology or equipment, your people will tell you what they need.
3. Learn from the past
Really, it's OK to look back at the past when setting today’s goals — but don’t use the past as a benchmark. Instead, examine what you and your teams learned the last time they attempted a similar objective and find out what they would do more, better or differently if they tried it again. This ensures mistakes stay where they belong — in the past.
Pushing a team to its limits is something great leaders do while also ensuring stretch goals don’t cause their teams to snap.