How To Set Goals For Managers To Become Great Leaders


Goals are part of the workplace and can be about anything from sales to marketing, product launches, or lines of code. But are all goals created equal? And do managers need some help learning how to set and build toward the goals that will benefit their team the most?

Read on for some tips about how to set goals for managers from Kim “KC” Campbell, a retired Air Force Colonel, former Director of the Center for Character and Leadership Development at the United States Air Force Academy, and the author of Flying in the Face of Fear: A Fighter Pilot’s Lessons on Leading with Courage


The importance of goals for managers

Whether managers are setting goals for themselves or creating goals for their teams, starting with workable and reasonable objectives is the best way to facilitate success. That’s why Campbell says they mean so much – they’re not just empty promises. They’re placeholders for the future.

“Goals help us define where we want to go,” Campbell says. “If you don’t know where you are going, then how do you plan to get there? When we set goals, the stakes are higher, and the scrutiny is greater, but the reward and benefits can be greater as well. They have the ability to elevate performance and take us to the next level.”

However, good goals (especially good goals for managers) aren’t just about looking at the future. They also allow employees to look at the past and see what they could have done better. This way, managers can use goals in two ways: to accomplish tasks and make task management more effortless.


“Goals provide us a method to look back and measure our performance and assess how we may be able to improve as a team or organization moving forward.”

All managers tend to make specific goals for teams to reach, whether they involve a project, deadline, or aspiration. But some managers feel that too much creative goal-setting might be a little out of their jurisdiction, especially if their goals require the manager to step into a more active leadership role. 


“If we don’t set goals, then we don’t risk failure,” Campbell says. “But we also miss out on opportunities. Some managers may be hesitant to make goals because they are worried about what happens if they don’t achieve them. They are worried about being held accountable if they don’t reach those goals.”

Mistakes managers make when setting goals

The most common mistake in goals for managers is that the goal itself isn’t reasonable. Some can be too aspirational, too complicated, or eventually “demotivate a team.” And other goals are too easy – so easy that they don’t even seem like goals at all.

Next, Campbell says, goals shouldn’t be arbitrary or nebulous. They should be quantifiable and specific.

“Another common error is setting goals that are not measurable. Goals need accompanying measures of performance or effectiveness to allow us to determine how we are doing in meeting or achieving them.”

Lastly, Campbell adds that the best goals are ones with a time frame. Goals without milestones, middle points, and endpoints leave no room for review or pivoting.

“Goals should also have an associated time horizon. This allows you a fixed point to evaluate performance but also allows you to set checkpoints along the way to track progress toward the goal. These checkpoints allow the team to change course or approach if it looks like you are off track or going to fall short.”

How to craft the best goals for managers

While bad goals might be commonplace, they can be turned into reasonable or well-thought-out goals for managers who have the right level of insight and flexibility. To assess a current goal, Campbell recommends asking the following questions:

  • “Is the goal aligned with your mission, vision, and values?”
  • “Does setting this goal add value to efficiency or effectiveness?”
  • “Is the goal you are trying to achieve within your control?”
  • “Can you take action to achieve it?”
  • “How will you measure success?”
  • “Can you track progress toward your goal, and how will you know when you’ve achieved your goals?”

When coming up with a new goal from scratch, managers should also focus on a few specific themes, topics, and stay in a certain mindset. If a manager’s goal involves the whole team, Campbell says, they should consider involving others in the discussion about what the goal means and how they might define it. This can help managers gain a sense of understanding about every relevant team member’s investment in the goal and what they might value in the end product.

“It’s important to have long-term goals,” Campbell adds, “but it’s also important to have some short-term goals. There’s nothing like a quick win to keep you motivated on your journey to success.”

Campbell also says that keeping a goal-oriented mindset and planning out appropriate goals means that setting goals is the easy part. Think of it like setting out on a journey – your goals are just deciding where the destination will be.

“Only hard work and commitment can make [goals] a reality,” Campbell says. “If you fail to achieve a goal, do not simply wallow in failure or try to quickly move past it. Seek to learn from why you fell short and apply the lessons in setting and achieving subsequent goals. Managers should work to nurture a growth mindset within their organization where those failures or shortcomings are an opportunity to learn and improve.”

Examples of great goals for managers 

Looking for inspiration before your next goal-setting session? Here are some great goals for managers that can get you started in the right direction.

1. Establish strong collaboration values within the team.

Work with the team to build the department’s strategy, implement cross-training among team members and document recurrent tasks and key projects. Pro-tip: Help your team to develop these important collaboration skills.

2. Improve the onboarding process to ensure productivity from the get-go.

Have a transparent process for new employees with a defined 30-60-90 plan, their Objectives and Key Results. Help new team members reduce their learning curve by having a strong documentation process. Pro-tip: Learn the dos and don’ts of setting OKRs.

3. Inspire growth and professional development.

Conduct weekly one-one check-ins or a quarterly 360 performance review to ensure your team members are aligned with the department’s overall goals and engaged in growth and development. Pro-tip: Understand how to create a training assessment.

4. Develop a culture of accountability within the team.

Set clear expectations and hold team members responsible for meeting goals and deadlines. Pro-tip: Learn effective ways to provide constructive feedback to team members and establish a process for performance evaluations.

5. Foster innovation and creativity.

Encourage team members to generate and share new ideas, and create a safe space for experimentation and risk-taking. Pro-tip: Implement regular brainstorming sessions and provide resources and support for implementing new ideas.

6. Develop a strong succession plan.

To ensure the long-term success of the department and organization. Pro-tip: Identify key roles within the department and create development plans for potential successors, and ensure that knowledge transfer and training are happening to prepare team members for future roles.

7. Strengthen your emotional intelligence.

Make it a priority to understand the emotions and feelings of your team members by actively listening and showing empathy. Pro-tip: Practice active listening. There’s no better way to listen actively than to take notes as your teammate talks, and keying in on great ideas is easier than ever with Hive’s Zoom Notes.

8. Improve your conflict resolution skills.

Address conflicts openly and fairly, aiming to reach a solution that is agreeable to all parties involved. Pro-tip: Before a conflict happens, ask your teammates: How do you want me to communicate something you don’t want to hear? Always encourage open communication and ensure all parties feel heard and focus on solving the issue rather than making the problem something personal.

9. ​​Implement a periodic peer review of your leadership skills.

Good managers offer feedback to their team members periodically and coach them to improve their performance. Outstanding managers seek periodic peer review to improve their own leadership skills and performance. After all, project managers should be used to feedback loops, right? It takes courage, humility and a great deal of confidence to hear and implement constructive feedback when you are in a higher level of the career ladder and that’s exactly why it’s such as good goal to have as a leader.

Using Hive To Set Your Goals


Are you ready to start making strategic goals with your team? You’re in luck — Hive’s newest (and most exciting) feature is Goals. Everyone wants to know how they’re moving their organization forward, and your team is more than just a project. With Goals, you can set various goals, visualize progress, and keep everyone aligned in one centralized dashboard. You can also:

  • Create one, ten, twenty, or more goals for your team, so everyone understands what they’re contributing to.
  • Centralize and automate your goal tracking and reporting.
  • Pull data from other systems into Hive to streamline operations and reporting.
  • Share your goal or goals, assign the goal to relevant teammates, track activity, and give yourselves a deadline.
  • Understand how your team and organization are pacing towards an individual goal or a set of goals.
  • Color-coded designations allow an easy understanding of “on-track” items.
  • When it’s time to review progress, accomplishments, and achievements, easily export all relevant information.

Want to get started? Start your free trial of Hive Goals today!

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