Building Organizational Goals With Your Team is SMART

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Building Operational Goals With Your Team is SMART

By Josh Gold, CAE, CMP 
FAA Executive Vice President


The first session of each new FAA Leadership Lyceum class includes a team-building activity where teams of five or so students build towers using only spaghetti and marshmallows. Each team must decide on an approach and then execute the task. After a set period of time, the students must step away from the table while the towers are measured. Each member of the team with the tallest tower receives a gift card. While prizes are nice, of course the purpose of the exercise goes well beyond winning.

Teambuilding exercises, by definition, have a common end goal for the activity itself, whether that’s solving puzzles to “escape” a fictional disaster, cooking a meal together, or building a spaghetti-marshmallow tower. There are more meaningful goals as well, even for groups that team up only for the duration of the exercise. Specifically, individuals can learn about their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, problem-solvers, and team players.

Longer-term teams, such as members of a staff, can improve collaboration and communication, and identify new ways to work together. Having fun together as a team can balance some of the stressful times that are inevitable in any workplace, when deadlines loom or a project doesn’t go quite as planned.

Other stressful situations in the workplace, however, may have something to do with how goals are established.

Naturally, different departments and specific staffers will have their own objectives, generally established in conjunction with management. But when the only goals are by department or individual, the result can be a silo effect, with more conflict than cooperation. 

Similarly, when management establishes an organization’s goals and simply tells staffers where to spend their time and focus their energy, staffers may feel less valued and under-motivated.

Perhaps most importantly, neither of those scenarios make the most of the talents of the individuals — or the strength of the team. Instead, a team approach to goal-setting can enable individuals to shine while also ensuring that the overarching objectives of the organization are met.

As with individual goals, it’s helpful if team goals are SMART:


Here are some additional suggestions for team goal setting.

  • Clearly communicate the mission and overall objectives of the organization. This may seem like it goes without saying, but keep in mind that these may evolve over time, with differences in the economy or changes in management, for example.
  • Discuss as a group how each individual’s or department’s goals support the organization overall, and how those separate goals fit together. If there is overlap, are there ways to avoid redundancies and increase efficiencies?
  • Encourage each team member to look for ways to help and be helped. No one individual can be good at everything. Are there specific aspects of projects that can be traded off?
  • On the other hand, challenge team members to stretch beyond their comfort zones. Team-based goals are a great opportunity for growth, especially if individuals know they can reach out to a colleague if they get stuck.
  • Establish milestones and meet periodically to evaluate progress. It’s not enough to have measurable goals if you never measure them.
  • Reward accomplishments. One of the best reasons to share goals as a team is the sense of accomplishment when goals are achieved. And while it’s true that feeling of accomplishment is a reward in itself, celebrating a common victory can be not only fun, it can also be a way to make a good team even stronger.