Skip to content

Do Goals Motivate Employees?

    Imagine you stroll into the office one fine morning, a steaming cup of coffee in hand, and casually ask your employees why they show up every day. How many do you think would jump up and shout, “Because I’m absolutely pumped to meet my targets, boss!” Hmm, not quite the usual response, right?

    Every company has its performance measures and goals, and while some employees thrive on crushing them, others might just be tolerating them like a Monday morning alarm. So, here’s the million-dollar question: are goals really that important? Oh, you bet! We need some way to measure whether our daily grind is paying off, no doubt about it. But do these goals genuinely ignite a fiery passion within our employees? Well, that’s where things get a little tricky, and the debate begins!

    What’s Great About Goals?

    So, you’ve probably read a bunch of articles about goal setting, and they make some good points -focus, motivation, improvement, building habits, boosting mindset, and skyrocketing confidence – the list goes on! Personally, I’m a huge fan of goal setting. But here’s the thing: I set goals because I deeply value the outcomes. But what about those work-related goals that seem to drop from the sky with minimal input from your or your team?

    Why Goal Setting in the Workplace Matters

    Goals act as our trusty North Star, providing a clear direction for individuals, teams, and businesses. They ensure we’re all marching towards the same objectives, and that’s key for achieving organizational greatness and driving top-notch performance.

    Goals can do more than just guide the way; they have the potential to fire up our employees. When your team knows what they’re striving for and how their efforts matter, they become unstoppable forces of productivity and engagement. That’s what we want, right? The question is, how do we achieve this?

    The Manager’s Challenge

    Two significant challenges often confront managers in goal-setting within their organizations. The first challenge is the top-down approach, where goals are dictated without considering input from managers or employees. It’s like being handed a blank canvas and told to paint a masterpiece without having the freedom to choose the colors. Talk about an inspiration killer!

    The second challenge lies in having the power to set goals but lacking the know-how to do it effectively in a way that truly engages your employees.

    In the remainder of this article, we will address Challenge 1 – the issue of top-down goal-setting without room for input.

    However, if you’re a manager with the autonomy to set goals but aren’t quite sure how to do it effectively, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with our upcoming course – “The Manager’s Roadmap to Goal-Setting Success.” Hit the subscribe button to ensure you receive timely notifications about this valuable resource.

    The Corporate Goal Game

    Let’s explore some of the realities of top-down goals, the drawbacks, and how you, as a manager, can rally your team around goals.

    First, here are a few reasons why goals can turn what is intended to motivate into frustration:

    ❌ In large companies, goals trickle down the organizational chart, leaving little room for employee input. Motivation becomes solely tied to the short-term rewards that come with achieving them, leading to a fleeting sense of satisfaction. It’s like getting a bonus or a pat on the back, but once the calendar turns, it’s back to square one.

    ❌ Annual goal changes lead to shifting focus, making it difficult to achieve long-term success or build beneficial habits. It’s like trying to hit a moving target – just when you think you’ve got it, it changes direction!

    ❌ With an overwhelming number of metrics, employees struggle to wrap their heads around the demands. Feeling it’s impossible to achieve, they become complacent. It’s like trying to read a book with too many chapters – your brain goes on strike!

    ❌ Hitting the numbers is not always achieved by doing good work. Goal pursuit may come at the expense of quality or at the expense of others.

    ❌ Employees can hit targets and get bonuses in any company; it doesn’t necessarily require working for you.

    ❌ Performance rankings often disaffect people rather than motivating them. It’s like being labeled as  “you’re great” or “you suck.” Only the number one spot brings real satisfaction.

    ❌ Too much focus on individual goal pursuit can kill the spirit of collaboration.

    How Managers can Motivate

    Let’s face it, dealing with company-set goals can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride.  But guess what? They’re here to stay, and everyone’s got to hustle to achieve them if they want to keep their job. So let’s look at what you, as a manager, can do about this.

    The Power of a Shared Goal

    As a leader, you have the incredible power to make a significant difference in your workplace. When you consider it, you have a reason why you want to be a manager. A way you can contribute. Just like you have your “why,” your employees need their “why,” and your team needs a common “why,” and it’s so much more than just a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet!

    Now, every company has a mission statement that tells employees what they want to accomplish in the business – it’s their “why”. Shouldn’t this be what gives employees purpose and leads them towards performance? Well, let’s take a peek at a company mission statement. Here’s an example from a big bank:

    Sure, it sounds good, but does it truly ignite inspiration in your employees? Does it speak to their deepest values and passions? Let’s be honest, it might be missing that personal touch, and that’s where we come in.

    Values to Drive a Shared Goal

    Let’s go beyond the surface and look at the values that might drive your team. Look at this same company’s vision statement:

    Now we’re talking! This vision seems to get to the core of why employees show up for work, right? Yet, when you look at the performance measures, you’ll probably find a sea of KPIs, charts, trends, and enough numbers to make your eyes cross!

    This is where your exceptional leadership skills step in. Working hand-in-hand with your team, you can create a shared goal and purpose that ties together those essential values with the cold, hard numbers. It’s like finding the perfect harmony between what truly matters to your employees and the key indicators of success.

    Let’s take this vision and make it personal, meaningful, and exciting for your team. By doing so, you’ll be crafting a shared goal that fuels their passion, drives their dedication, and provides clear direction for what success looks like for your team.

    Creating a Shared Goal

    Look at that vision statement once again, and this time, let’s get some fresh insights and ideas through engaging conversations with your employees. Start by asking your team some key questions:

    • What does it truly mean to build client relationships?
    • Which actions build unwavering trust with our clients?
    • How will it look when we go above and beyond to exceed our client’s expectations?
    • What do our customers genuinely need from us, beyond the obvious?
    • How can we make a positive impact in our community and spread some good vibes?

    Now, it’s brainstorming time! Encourage your team to share their perspectives, insights, and personal experiences related to these questions. Embrace the diversity of ideas; after all, that’s where the beauty of a shared goal lies – in the unique contributions of each team member.

    The key here is authenticity – it doesn’t have to be some polished, corporate jargon-filled document. Let it flow naturally, like a splash of sticky notes on a whiteboard, capturing the essence of your team’s thoughts and values. This shared goal isn’t just about you or any individual; it’s about your customers, your employees, and your community coming together as one cohesive force.

    A Shared Goal in Action

    Once you’ve crafted your shared goal, it’s time to document the driving values and the actions that will bring it to life. Here’s an example to guide you:

    Sample Shared Goal : “Client-Centric Excellence”

    Vision: To be known as the go-to team for delivering exceptional client relationships.

    Values Driving the Goal:

    • Client-Centricity: Placing our clients at the heart of everything we do, ensuring their needs are met and expectations exceeded.
    • Building trust: We will build lasting client relationships through trust, transparency, and consistent delivery of top-notch services.
    • Listening and Understanding: Listening intently to our clients’ needs and providing tailored solutions to enhance their banking experience.
    • Collaboration: Work as a team to achieve shared goals and promote a culture of mutual support and growth.

    Shared Goal in Action:

    • Proactive client engagement, where each team member actively reaches out to clients to offer personalized advice and support.
    • Ensure prompt and effective responses to client inquiries, feedback, and concerns.
    • Conduct regular client feedback surveys and use the insights to continuously improve services and meet evolving client needs.
    • Celebrate client success stories within the team to reinforce the significance of our collective impact on clients’ financial well-being.
    • Engage in community initiatives and outreach programs to showcase our dedication to making a positive difference beyond traditional banking services.

    What do you think? Would this resonate with your team? What really matters is what gets your employees out of bed in the morning, what ignites their passion and drives their commitment to making a difference. It’s about creating a vision of success that feels personal and meaningful to each team member.

    Your Actions Matter

    To keep your shared goal alive, you, as a manager, need to support it and make sure employees don’t lose sight of it so it doesn’t become like another flavor of the month initiative.

    Actions that support a shared purpose: 😁

    • Keep it Visible: Let that shared goal shine like a guiding star! Create a visually captivating board with notes, pictures, or even a weekly playback video. This way, your team can’t help but be reminded of the common vision that unites them and sparks their motivation.
    • Employee Input Matters: During performance conversations, don’t just talk at your employees; talk with them. Seek their valuable input on how they contribute to the shared vision. After all, their perspectives and ideas fuel the magic of collaboration.
    • Celebrate and Recognize: When your team members go above and beyond to contribute to the shared goal, don’t hold back on the applause. Give feedback that makes them beam with pride, highlighting the specifics of their contributions.
    • Hire for Collaboration: When bringing new team members on board, keep an eye out for those who thrive in a collaborative environment. Share your goal with potential candidates and ask how they envision contributing to it. Genuine passion can’t be faked, and it’s a game-changer for your team’s success.
    • Link Results to Activities: Yes, numbers matter, but they aren’t everything. When recognizing employees for excellent results, go beyond the figures. Focus on how they’ve positively impacted customers, worked seamlessly with colleagues, and embodied the shared purpose.
    • Share Customer Stories: Share customer stories with your team, and ask questions like, “How did we live our goal in this story?” Celebrate the wins and acknowledge all team members who played a role in creating that impact.

    Actions that derail a shared purpose: 🙁

    •  Individual Rewards Only: Remember, this is a team effort. Rewarding individuals without considering their contribution to the team’s shared goal can create discord and diminish collective spirit.
    • Relying  Solely on Rankings: While individual rankings can be useful, don’t let them overshadow the team’s collaborative achievements. Recognize the strength of teamwork, where everyone’s efforts come together for a greater purpose.
    • Focus on Individual Targets: Coaching employees only to individual targets may isolate them from the collective objective. Ensure that team targets are equally emphasized, promoting unity and mutual support.
    • Possessive language: Be mindful of language that emphasizes possessiveness, like “my customers” or “my portfolio.” Encourage language that highlights collective ownership and shared responsibility.
    • Numbers without Purpose: While tracking progress is essential, don’t let team meetings become all about the numbers. Remember to infuse stories and discussions about the shared purpose, keeping the team’s motivation alive.
    • Vague Goals: Ensure that all team members are crystal clear about the shared goal and why it matters. A lack of understanding can lead to confusion and disconnection from the team’s purpose.
    • Hiring only for Skill: Experience is vital, but don’t let it be the sole determinant in hiring decisions. Consider candidates who align with the team’s shared purpose, as their passion and commitment will drive success.

    Personal Goals

    In addition to creating a shared goal, you can also encourage employees to set personal goals. Those are the goals that light a fire in their souls, the ones that give their work true meaning and purpose. They may be career-related, skill development, or any number of things. Get to know your team and find out what truly drives them. When their work aligns with their values, you’ll witness an increased level of motivation.


    I believe that when we all work together towards a shared goal, financial results will naturally follow. Create a shared goal, own it, embrace it, live it, and have a blast while doing it. And don’t keep it a secret – share it with your boss and other teams. Let’s spread the magic of our shared purpose far and wide.

    As a manager, your role is to manage the company’s measures while leading the charge towards  a common goal. Let’s create a workplace where passion, collaboration, and purpose intersect, setting us up for unparalleled success. 

    Ponder Points

    Have I actively sought input from my team members to create a shared goal that reflects their aspirations and values?

    How will I involve employees in the goal-setting process to enhance their sense of ownership and commitment?

    How can I balance the focus on achieving performance metrics with keeping the team’s shared purpose at the forefront?

    In what ways will I celebrate and recognize team members’ contributions to the shared goal in a meaningful and personalized way?

    How will I create a visible and engaging way to remind the team of our shared goal regularly, keeping it alive and motivating them towards success?

    Is creating a shared goal on your radar? Head over to the grow page for inspiration to make this happen.

    Please share your thoughts, suggestions and success about goal setting.

    Share Your Thoughts