Bringing the team back together: Goal setting for 2021

Frances Brown

Image of bees linking to form a bridge

Time to talk...

After the upheaval of the last year, there will be very few teams who haven’t had to face some sort of major change to how they work. Even in the best of times, it’s easy for a team to lose their way without realising it.

To start afresh and ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction, it’s vital to have a frank, detailed conversation that allows the team to revisit and clarify goals so that they can re-orientate and come back together with a renewed sense of focus and direction. All of the key team members who will be involved in shaping and achieving the company’s goals should be included in this conversation - leave anybody out and you run the risk that valuable knowledge is being lost and that you will encounter legitimate and reasonable resistance to your goals from those team members further down the line. 

..and to listen 

This conversation doesn’t require a complicated framework or strict principles - it’s about allowing everyone to speak, to share their understanding and get back on track.

Everyone should have the chance to talk through how their year has been, the knowledge they’ve gained and the problems they’ve encountered. Everyone should feel heard. ‘Stupid’ questions, about things that seem obvious, should be welcome - it’s important not to assume anything or take anything at face value.

It’s not uncommon to find that there is at least some disagreement around even the most basic details - it’s these seemingly inconsequential differences in understanding that can cause hidden problems that are difficult to solve. These differences are especially likely to occur in a year like 2020 when the team has had very little chance to check in with each other informally. Once they are unearthed, they can be dealt with, allowing everyone to have a clear, agreed understanding of all the fundamentals.

Set a direction

An important question to ask in this conversation is 'what are we trying to achieve?' This may seem like a very simple question but in my experience it’s one that’s rarely asked and often difficult to answer.

After a year of uncertainty and firefighting, it’s even more important to discuss it. A related and equally important question is 'what does success look like?' This question should be answered in as much detail as possible - how will the team know when they’ve achieved what they’ve set out to do? Having a picture of where the team wants to end up helps to ensure that decisions are aimed at creating that picture and will also give everyone something to focus on, something to aim for.

The next step is to use the answers to these questions to set goals, both for the long and short term.

Long term goals should include a clear direction for teams, projects and the company as a whole, that encompass how the company will function and how success will be achieved and understood.

Short term goals should be achievable and realistic, with a clarity around how they contribute to the long term goal. For example, a goal to add ten staff members to the company by the end of 2022 should include the short term goal of determining where those staff members might fit, what their job descriptions will be and what hiring process will be followed.

Setting these goals will ensure that the team has direction and purpose and that they can get started on the new year with a knowledge of how their hard work is contributing to the future of the company.

Honesty is the best policy

If the conversation is open and honest, and everyone is given the opportunity to speak and clarify their thoughts, it will improve the productivity and success of the team, but that’s not the only benefit it brings. It will also reduce stress and uncertainty by allowing team members to clear away barriers and reach agreement on fundamental issues that influence how well the team functions. It will put everyone back on the same page and reassure them that they know what they’re doing and where they’re going. 

While it’s possible to run a conversation successfully within the team itself, bringing in a facilitator can ensure that the hard questions are addressed  - an outside perspective makes assumptions and misunderstandings easier to spot. If you would like more guidance on how to revisit and reset your team’s goals, get in contact