How to Set Leadership Team Goals That Drive Results for Your Organisation
True executive team effectiveness can’t be done without a clear path to success. But a clear path needs a definition of what said success looks like, generally in the form of a goal. Which means setting executive leadership team goals.
Consider this an exercise in creating a common thread for your executive team to rally around. It may sound challenging, but we’ve broken down everything you need to know about leadership team goals including the types of goals you can set and how to successfully implement executive team goals.
What are leadership team goals?
Leadership team goals are collective objectives set by the senior leaders or executives within an organisation. These goals generally encompass the strategic direction, operational efficiency, and professional development of the leadership team as a whole.
Why should your leadership team set shared goals?
A highly effective executive team can propel their organisation towards great success. Yet, McKinsey found less than 40% of leadership teams practice consistent communication, and only 60% of their workforce believe the leadership team is aligned on a purpose.
Consider the leaders in your executive team. The VP of HR cares about organisation-wide internal issues, while the CEO is mainly thinking external whilst balancing internal. If you’ve got an IT lead, they’re probably fielding the CEO’s ideas while trying to cultivate talent capacity in their function. Marketing‘s thinking about innovation and driving revenue, and the communications leader (if separate from marketing) is likely worried about brand strategy and getting everyone to buy into it. Customer support might be thinking about turnover and NPS scores (amongst many other stats).
We could keep going, but you get the point. Most leaders’ KPIs don’t align, less so when succession happens and team membership changes. That’s often the point; every function should have its own directives to aim for, and a leader to champion those. Executive teams should encompass varying complementary skillsets as a result.
So, then, it’s about making the most of the differing leadership skills and expertise—given your team is still in the driver’s seat for business success. The way to do that is to create a common thread, a north star, a goal line for leadership team members to rally around. Which means:
- Channels that open for better communication and collaboration, not just for the team goal, but for cross-department work
- Increased productivity and efficiency (everyone’s favourite metrics), breaking down silos and avoiding duplication of efforts
- Smarter and more informed decision-making processes, given they have broader business knowledge
- Enhanced team management capabilities, thanks to shared project management.
And when all is said and done, remember that development opportunities tend to get rarer the higher up people move in their career. Being able to offer learning that is directly tied into performance (and therefore business) outcomes is the reason we created the performance learning management system (PLMS).
It’s the only solution that guides leaders to master the capabilities of their roles that’ll accelerate organisational performance. That means you’re giving time-poor executives the exact learning recipe to enact impact, and capturing evidence of true behaviour change.
Types of leadership team goals
Not all goals are created equal, especially not for your executive team leaders. Broadly speaking, there’ll be tangible and intangible sets of leadership team goals; the former will be aligned with business goals, while the latter are important to running the business in general.
We can drill down even further, into three types:
- Strategic goals
- Operational goals
- Developmental goals.
This type of goal looks to long-term organisational objectives.
Examples of strategic leadership team goals can include:
- Increase market share by X percent
- Improve customer satisfaction rating by X points
- Launch X new products within the next fiscal year
- Achieve an X% employee retention rate
- Expand into international markets by opening X new locations.
Strategic goals guide the team’s shared vision and ensure alignment with business strategy (strategic, strategy, duh).
As the name suggests, operational leadership team goals revolve around optimising internal processes.
- Develop and execute a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy
- Improve employee engagement and morale
- Enhance diversity and inclusion initiatives
- Streamline internal processes to improve efficiency
- Increase employee training and development opportunities.
These should have tangible impacts within the organisation.
Developmental goals seek to, well, develop the capabilities of your executive team. They’re aimed at enhancing individual and collective capabilities, with the added benefit of role modelling personal development to their respective teams.
Some examples of developmental goals for your leadership team could be:
- Engage in leadership coaching
- Seek out and foster mentorships
- Undertake a leadership development program
- Build cross-functional relationships
- Enhance executive presence.
Many of these goals are based on team interaction, meaning that even if they are individual in short-term theory, the long-term practice should benefit the team’s effectiveness.
How to set effective leadership team goals
While the above examples could be copied verbatim, it’s best to design these kinds of leadership goals with your leadership team. Firstly, you want leadership buy-in for any initiative, especially one that requires their time. But secondly, the most effective goals are those that are personal to the needs, wants, and pain points of your business leaders—because they offer the most inherent motivation.
All-in goal setting will generally involve:
- Defining your objectives and outcomes
- Setting realistic timelines and milestones
- Monitoring progress and adjust goals as needed
- Celebrating successes and learning from failures.
Step 1: Define objectives
The first step is getting the diagnosis right for a goal. Broader business and situational awareness are key, but can be muddied by the laser focus of each business leader. Consider this the step where you create a shared vision.
It helps to apply a framework to this step (the average enterprise team leader only wants to deal in the most pressing facts, anyway). SMART goals break things down in the clearest teams, creating alignment for your team members.
- Specific. Answer four of the “W” questions: What are we trying to accomplish (and what resources are needed), why is the goal important, where does it need to happen, and who is involved?
- Measurable. Add parameters and boundary lines. How will we know the goal is accomplished? It’s generally a measure of how much or how many.
- Achievable. Again, ask “how”, but this time: How can we achieve the goal, and how realistic is it given our capacity and timeframe?
- Relevant. Relevance has many sub-considerations beyond immediate value. Some questions you can ask to determine this include: Is this the right time for this goal? Are these the right people to do it? Is it applicable to the economic environment?
- Time-bound. Here’s the final “W”: When. It’s somewhat co-dependent with achievable, in that you need to consider what you can feasibly do in the timeframe you set.
Remember the strategic goals? “Achieve an X% employee retention rate” can be made SMART-er by adding a deadline and basing the percentage on realistic data. E.g., Achieve a 90% employee retention rate within the next financial year.
Step 2: Map milestones
Whatever the goal, make it a priority for leaders lest team goals get forgotten among the chaos of everyday work. Part of prioritisation is easy wins and check in points.
The former offers a sense of progress while the latter adds accountability. If the goal is to improve employee retention rates, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks like:
- Conduct an employee satisfaction survey within the first quarter.
- Identify and address key factors influencing employee turnover by the end of the second quarter.
- Develop and implement an employee engagement strategy within the third quarter.
- Implement retention-focused initiatives, such as training and development programs, mentorship opportunities, and career progression plans, by the end of the fourth quarter.
These tasks need to follow a logical order. A satisfaction survey is going to give you the insight with which to determine turnover factors, and both of these will provide the pain points and opportunities for the employee engagement strategy. Also tie KPIs to each of these tasks, as well as task owners. If every leader is responsible for their team undertaking the survey by end of Q1, state that upfront and make their progress visible somewhere.
Step 3: Monitor progress
Throughout each task and at the completion of them, take a moment to consider what’s worked well and what needs adjusting. (It also ensures everyone who’s accountable to tasks is being held accountable.)
On the point of visibility, you could consider:
- A central dashboard or project management software that visually displays progress. Handy to put KPIs on there if you’re using them, like NPS ratings or cycle times.
- A private team channel for ongoing communication (if you feel they’ll actually use it, of course).
- Progress reports. These are particularly handy if leaders are only the project leader for a task, and the doing of work falls on their team (for example, completing satisfaction surveys).
- Check-in meetings. Alas, getting their time will be the hard part, but it creates a forum in which concerns and progress have to be discussed.
On top of visibility, you need your leaders to take the time to analyse and discuss progress. Are there trends, patterns or recurring issues that impede progress? What is an acceptable course correction? What worked well and can be systemised? Were the milestones truly realistic?
If you need to adjust timelines, reallocate resources or even refine strategies, it’s easier to do it as you go. There’ll be more payoff at the end when things work, and it’ll give senior executives a reason to buy into the next goals.
Step 4: Reflect & reset
Getting executive teams to take a beat isn’t always the easiest thing, but it’s important for recognising achievements, documenting success, and learning from failure. And to achieve true executive team effectiveness, there needs to be a commitment to continuous improvement.
Aside from the obvious measure of success (a SMART goal was achieved in the timeframe set), you can also look to some other markers to understand the team’s impact. If retention increased, have the turnover factors identified in Step 2 been diminished or resolved? What parts of the employee engagement strategy effectively contributed to this? Running another engagement survey would make for more informed post-mortems.
And on the topic of post-mortems, your executive team needs to be able to reflect on lessons learned. Publicly celebrating success is great for morale, but openly discussing areas for improvement fosters a valuable growth mindset. It also puts the executive team on the path to more corrective action plans, so momentum isn’t lost with a one-and-done approach to team goals. Cascading any lessons learned to their departmental teams also means leaders can create a culture of continuous improvement, so the buck doesn’t stop with them.
The pitfalls of not developing leadership team goals
There are a few factors that can impact executive team effectiveness.
First, leadership teams that are structured by the CEO as a collection of senior executives or staff, without the existing relationships or necessary support to learn to function as a team. Most of your senior players have become masters of individual accountability, and so sharing the responsibility load may not come easy for them without clear goals. Consider gender and diversity dynamics in this mix, too, and the risks of a homogenous executive team.
Second, if the leadership team members believe their collective role is simply to execute organisational strategy. While, yes, this is a large part of the purpose, it may mean individual leaders focus on their individual KPIs rather than the bigger business picture.
Third, business leaders are busy people (and don’t they make that known). If there’s no structure or clear need for the team to come together, let alone exist, they’re not going to dedicate time. That’ll trickle down to a rushed decision-making process, unwilling resource allocation and compromised outcomes, all of which makes the team less likely to want to work together in future.
Leadership team goals can be as personal as “practice active listening skills”, focused on business operations (such as “implement blind hiring practices”), or look to the bigger strategic picture (“increase annual revenue”). Whatever the mode, each goal and the plan to achieve it needs to be a shared target for your executive leaders.
The SMART framework gives you the clearest goals for your time-poor execs (as well as the most strategically aligned). From there, it’s a matter of breaking tasks down into achievable chunks with clear accountabilities and check-in points. This’ll make it easier to review and reflect at the end, and get their buy-in to do it again and again.
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