How to create exponential goals for high-performing teams.
As a leader, motivating a high-performing team to reach new heights can be challenging. When your team is already winning the race, how do you set a goal that will inspire them to go even further and reach their full potential?
I was coaching a client in the financial services sector last week; the agenda is developing his leadership skills. The question he brought to the session was, “How can he best motivate his high-performing sales team to maintain their excellent performance to achieve their annual targets?”
I asked him what the goal is. His initial response was to help his team optimise their performance so they can achieve the company’s sales target. Sensing a lack of clarity, I asked him what the relationship was between “the optimised performance of his team” and “the sales targets”. He answered honestly, saying he didn’t know.
I asked him how motivating it would be for his team if he inadvertently asked them to play it safe, stop taking risks, and operate at 60% of capacity as this is required to achieve the sales target. That’s when the Ah-ha moment occurred. It suddenly became clear to him that he was focusing on the wrong goal, and what he really wants to achieve is way beyond the annual sales target that his team is likely to hit with or without his leadership.
A competent leader will support their team to achieve the mission; an inspiring leader will challenge the team to think, explore their full potential and take calculated risks. The latter approach is likely to deliver results well beyond the stated mission or goals and simultaneously expand the capacity of the team.
This is the process of creating exponential goals. Unlike incremental goals that focus on maintaining or improving current performance, exponential goals push teams to think outside the box and reach for something beyond their current capabilities.
To unleash the full potential of your team, it’s essential to create a culture of innovation and experimentation. Encourage your team to try new approaches and take risks, even if they don’t always succeed. Failure is a necessary part of growth and learning, and it’s essential to help your team overcome the fear of failure and embrace it as a valuable learning experience.
It’s also important to recognise that each person thinks differently, likes to be challenged in different ways, and has their own perspective on risk and achievement. It’s, therefore, essential to get to know each individual in your team on a deeper level. This involves a commitment to trust, belief, and candour, which requires the leader to exercise courage, empathy, and vulnerability.
Here are six tips for setting exponential goals that will help your team reach new heights:
- Share your vision and philosophy
Share your vision of what the dream goal looks like. This isn’t about the numbers and performance goals. This is about long-term growth for the company, its people and its customers. It’s about making a lasting difference and leaving a legacy. Express why it is important to you; people are inspired by genuine leaders with whom they can connect, trust and believe in.
- Involve your team in creating the goals
When your team participates in creating the goals, they feel ownership, which means they will be motivated to achieve them. Set the context, invite them to let go of any limiting beliefs, and use their un-bounded imagination about what’s possible. Once you’ve truly explored the limits, work with them to define a meaningful set of goals that will require them to perform beyond the current capabilities of the team. Be explicit in your belief in the team’s potential and invite them to accept the challenge.
- Set SMART goals for performance and growth
We all know the importance of setting SMART goals to provide clarity and precision. Don’t overload with too many goals, as this can create ambiguity and contention as well as being an administrative burden. Do consider how the goals will encourage the team/individuals’ growth as well as the performance outcomes.
- Encourage risk-taking and experimentation
Encourage your team to take risks and try new things, even if they might fail along the way. Creating a culture of experimentation and learning will help your team grow and develop and lead to new breakthroughs and innovations.
- Celebrate progress along the way
Acknowledge their hard work, and recognize the milestones they achieve as they work towards the larger goal. Celebrating success helps keep your team motivated and reinforces the importance of setting challenging goals and pushing beyond what is comfortable.
- Provide personalised radical support and radical feedback
It’s essential that you are 100% committed to supporting each member of the team to perform to their full potential. How you do this will be tailored to the individual and their specific needs. Don’t assume a one-size-fits-all approach, and don’t assume that you know what a person needs. Take the time to find out the specific needs of each individual and contract with them to provide candid and timely feedback, ideas, and support.
If you’re looking to take your team’s performance to the next level, contact me for leadership coaching. Together, we can help your team unlock its full potential.
Andrew Clemence, Business Leadership & Performance Coach
 SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.