If you’re like a lot of managers, finding time for goal setting can be a tough-to-achieve goal in itself. You’re scrambling to maintain a check-in cadence, perhaps wearing more hats as your company continues to adjust to full-time remote work. Sometimes simply keeping the wheels on the train is exhausting.
But setting goals and then committing to them is key to your team’s cohesion. When you establish specific goals at both the organizational and team levels, you instill accountability and purpose in your direct reports. It’s just easy to let goal-setting fall by the wayside when you’re constantly pulled in different directions.
So how do you avoid feeling like a frazzled parent who’s so tied up with meals, chores, and homework that you forget to take a shower or eat? Here are five goals for managers trying to helm cohesive units, while also delegating from their own plate:
1. Connect with team members consistently, yet carefully.
Like any well-intentioned manager, you probably know it’s important to refine your communication skills. You can’t just take a uniform approach. Not everyone on your team will need—or want—the same check-in system. So it’s on you to gauge what works for whom, based on their behavioral drives and preferred communication styles.
Example: If you have a couple Persistent profiles on your team, they likely embrace the steady pace and relative autonomy afforded by remote work. They may not even need to hold a formal check-in on certain days or weeks if they’re in a good groove. Shoot them a message asking if there’s anything standing in the way of getting their work done, and let them occasionally dictate the terms (time, length, agenda) of your meeting.
Your medium for connecting can vary, too. Some discussions might require a video chat, or a screen share, but you can switch things up for certain people. Your more social or extraverted employees might appreciate spontaneous chats (voice-only calls are sometimes even preferable). And your team members with higher formality drives will want to know what’s coming, so you can send them an agenda in advance.
Your goal should be twofold here: Keep a pulse on your team’s progress, but do it with enough flexibility that employees feel comfortable and trusted. Your connections will end up more productive and meaningful as a result.
2. Establish measurable KPIs.
Being an effective manager often means striking a fine balance between empathy and accountability. It’s not easy. Get too chummy and people might start taking advantage of you, but if you put walls up, your team members may eventually disengage.
One way you can promote accountability without coming off cold is by establishing clear, measurable performance trackers upfront. Outline the data by which people will be evaluated, and reiterate it to them early and often. Better yet, give them a few KPIs (key performance indicators) they can track and own themselves.
Example: Your company offers an app that helps guide tourists through museums and galleries. Your key metrics include new user sign-ups, customer retention, and upsells. Give one person on your team access to the tools that collect this information. Then, ask them to log this data (whether in the software or something simple like a spreadsheet) and share it with the team at regular intervals.
Hold the team accountable to the goals set for each KPI, while making the individual accountable for tracking them. You’re not saying that the person responsible for tracking is necessarily evaluated by the success of the metric itself, but you are trusting them to follow through with the measurement. In doing so, you’re empowering the individual while delegating a task that affects—and hopefully benefits—the group.
3. Track professional development goals.
The concept here is similar, in that you’re empowering the individual to track identified goals. Except when it comes to professional development, the team member should be the one to identify them.
You can provide a template or framework for people to set professional development goals. You can also encourage them to think about their development over a given amount of time.
Example: Ask employees to consider what they hope to accomplish within the next six months, year, or five years. You can segment those goals further by asking them to think about them in personal, professional, and organizational contexts. Many people might say they want to be promoted, but when asked to deconstruct what that means (e.g., leading a cross-departmental project), the goal becomes more actionable.
In doing so, you’re refining your own leadership skills while building those of your team members. You can offer professional development opportunities both internally and externally, setting up workshops or encouraging people to attend training. Smart goals benefit the individual’s development first, but also the group as a whole, because they build leadership skills.
4. Be smart and selective with constructive feedback.
One of the hardest parts about your job as a manager is figuring out how to deliver constructive feedback. You want to help people improve and grow, but you don’t want to shake their confidence irreversibly in the process.
You can use this term exclusively, as opposed to “constructive criticism,” because of the negative connotation carried by the latter. Some organizations favor 360 reviews, which solicit a wider range of perspectives, but are also prone to getting overly personal and counterproductive in their anonymity.
Your priority should be to think about how people prefer to receive feedback. Consider their behavioral styles, and the medium they’re most receptive to. You might think putting an evaluation in an email is the obvious move for the sake of documentation. But if you’re sending it to a person with low patience and low formality, they might not absorb the message.
Instead, prioritize the manner of delivery, and be selective in the feedback you highlight.
Example: Tie the feedback to goals that have been established. Whether they’re personal or organization, your most constructive feedback will be that which applies directly to conversations you’ve had. If a team member isn’t holding up their end of bargain, you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t hold them to their assigned metrics, and talk about how they can improve.
This part of your job will be easier if your team is a trusting one. People will assume good intentions, and recognize that you’re simply holding them accountable to the standards set for everyone, rather than “calling them out.”
5. Make time for gratitude.
Gratitude and appreciation are key drivers of employee engagement. You simply can’t leave them out of your managerial toolkit.
The most important thing is to express these feelings, so that people feel rewarded and valued for the work they’ve done. But it’s worth remembering that different employees will take differently to public recognition or rewards. If you have a team member with a particularly low extraversion drive, check with them first in private.
Example: Reach out to the person, again using a medium most conducive to their behavioral profile. Emphasize what you appreciate about their contributions. Then ask if they’d feel comfortable with you offering them public praise via a Slack channel or company-wide email. If not, they’ll appreciate the fact that you asked, in addition to the gratitude you’re still expressing.
No matter how your team members are inclined to receive it, balancing accountability and constructive feedback with gratitude is essential. Especially during times of stress and change, an empathetic approach goes miles toward fostering a highly engaged, cohesive unit.
For more ideas on how to manage and inspire cohesive teams, check out these resources.