Leadership in Action – Ensuring Goal Acceptance

three women gathered around a table

In the past two posts, we looked at the advantages of clear and accepted goals, as well as how to ensure that goals are clear. This post, we finish off this series with how we make sure goals are accepted. Ensuring goal acceptance is different based on origin. Are they mutually agreed-to or do they come from above? We look at both situations as we Connect the Dots and drive energy.


Goals from “On High”

Let’s face it, many of the goals we motivate our team around are set from above. With these goals, clear communication is a critical starting point as members need to internalize the goal as their own, for ultimate success.

Beyond the clear communication of the goal, you want to bring forward the WIIFM around the goal. Remember, be specific. How does goal achievement help them to grow and develop within the organization? How is the goal aligned to their own interests and talents?

Connect the goal to similar successes they have already accomplished. Using appreciative inquiry, show how they can build and grow from their previous experience into this new goal.

Once your team member has all this in mind, ask them to create the plan for achieving the goal, establishing key milestones. These milestones are vital as they allow both you and your team member to know when they are on target and when they are off. This allows them to self-correct or seek input from you.


Mutually Agreed-to Goals

Ideally, you are able to establish goals within your team through a mutually agreeable method.  Participation in the goal-setting process is a key aspect of goal acceptance. The key is mutual agreement, as goals need to align to departmental and organizational objectives. The OKR process, set out in John Doerr’s 2018 book Measure What Matters, provides a great framework for keeping goals aligned throughout the organization, as well as keeping the organization, departments and individuals focused on a few key objectives.

Regardless of the goal process you use, set parameters for each team member as they set their goals, either annually or for a specific project. Your expectation is that their goals should stretch them and create growth in their performance. Also, understand that if they are stretching themselves, then they probably won’t achieve all of their goals. However, they should grow as a result of tackling each goal.

As for the process, ask them to set the goals first, then review together. Most team members will stretch themselves beyond what you think they are capable of handling. And since they set the target, they have more ownership. As long as these targets align with department and organizational needs, you are primed for achievement. However, there are two cautions.

In some cases, the goals may not be stretched enough. This occurs when the goals are the same as last year’s performance or very little stretch. Here you need to address that you see the goals as not stretched enough, that they will not create growth or challenge. Let them know that you see their capabilities as higher than what they have proposed, and work to a number that they see as a stretch but does not overwhelm them.

Some team members may be unrealistic in their targets and you do need to work with them as well. This is a delicate conversation, as you do not want to communicate a lack of belief that they can produce. It’s just that they may be missing some of the other work activities that might get in the way or frustrate them in the process. If they are proposing three or four really stretch goals, suggest that they take one or two they are most passionate about. Then, keep them at this big stretch and reduce the other two to ensure balance of time and energy.


In both cases, the idea is the same. They create the plan for achieving the goal with key milestones established, as described above.

Now your team is aligned to clear and accepted goals that will stretch their individual growth. This alignment of goals will increase accountability, proactivity and innovation.