How to Help Team Members Set Goals, Maintain Accountability

BY Kathy Crosett
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The new workplace is all about team leaders and coaches who engage with workers. The old title of "boss" is fading away. Some of our old practices, like hovering over workers’ shoulders, should fade away too. One of the most radical changes impacting organizations is the morphing of the old performance appraisal into “performance development.” A thoughtful post by Jim Harter at Gallup challenges you to think about this concept.

The negative aspects of the annual performance review are now accepted by most organizations. That type of appraisal may have sufficed for factory workers who rarely changed their daily tasks, but today’s workers, especially highly skilled and trained individuals, may face a different task every day.  They need coaching, training and ways to track what they are doing and to stay accountable.

To help employees feel more connected to their work and motivated to succeed, your managers should transform themselves into coaches. In this new role, your coaches will work with team members to establish goals. Doing so, according to Gallup research, results in employees who are “four times more likely to be engaged than other employees.” The problem is, only 30% of current workers have a say in the goals that are set for them.

Goal setting is tough and can’t be done in a vacuum. As a coach, you know which objectives your group must achieve in the next few months, or over the course of the next year. When a team member’s desired goals don’t align with what the group needs, be prepared to negotiate. If a team member wants more professional development, sign her up for a class that will develop skills to help her work more efficiently toward one of your department’s objectives. If another team member wants to complete a project which isn’t a high priority for the department, set that goal as a lower priority, one he can work toward after completing his other work.

Setting goals isn’t enough to ensure success. Gallup research shows that touching base at least once a week with each team member is a must. You don’t need to spend an hour in a 1‑on‑1 with each person. Nobody has time for that. Quick check-​ins to ask about progress toward goals and to offer assistance needed to remove roadblocks the employee is encountering are important. These check-​ins keep everyone accountable and allow you to reset goals as necessary.

Despite the buzz about new organizational and business models, one detail about the relationship between coaches and team members hasn’t changed. People appreciate hearing that they are meeting expectations and doing a good job, so don’t skimp on saying thank you.