How To Set Goals: 3 Practices for Leaders

SUMMARY:  (5 min read) Our team has created three strategic objectives for 2021 to support your workplace. The following article is about a leadership practice for how to set goals based on our observations.


I am going to say something hard…so get ready. 

Buckle up. 

If we want to talk about productivity on our teams and about excelling and even exceeding what we have done in the past…then we have to talk, first and foremost, about…you. 

It is tempting and can even be addicting to talk about our teams or people as the loci for the challenges and setbacks we have. But, as Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky put it, “when you belong to the organization or community that you are trying to lead, you are part of the problem.” Leadership on the Line, (p. 90). 

OUCH. And, this is deeply good news—because if you are part of the problem then you are also part of the answer. 

As leaders we would love to keep people accountable until all problems melt away and there is ease at work. But all too often we are reluctant to see ourselves on the playing field and acknowledge that we are not only members of the team but also contributors to the problem. If you want accountable teams the bucks starts, and stops, with you. 

We must first get accountable with ourselves, secondly, model it, and finally encourage/enact it. 

Getting Accountable with Ourselves 

In Dr. Cloud’s work he makes a pretty radical and profound statement about leaders, “You are ridiculously in charge.” Boundaries for Leaders, (p. 15).

 So, think about what your greatest concern or challenge is in your department…and then ask this hard but important question:        

How am I contributing to this? 

If you are willing to ask this question of yourself, and then of members of your team, you will begin where all leaders need to, with yourself. 

Try saying something like this: 

“I noticed that our communication could be stronger, can you tell me ways that I communicate that team members may think is weak and what you would do differently to make it stronger? 

Then, just listen. 

Don’t argue or make excuses. 

Take notes. 

And then, as quickly as possible, put that feedback into practice. 

Model it

Once you have taken the step to practice “Getting Accountable,” you have developed a real strength in your leadership. Model it well. 

One simple but effective way to do this well is to narrate it. This is a powerful tool for helping people hear the new story you are telling, or new culture you are creating, with your team and your business. Don’t assume they are just picking it up. Narrate it. It could like this: 

Let’s break this down.  Notice these 7 elements to Narrating Accountable Change:

  1. State your intentions
  2. Action Taken
  3. Ownership
  4. Clarify
  5. Intention
  6. Their Responsibility 
  7. Gratitude 

(Find a helpful worksheet here)

Encourage/Enact it 

Are people refusing to communicate? What are you/have you done to fix the miscommunication? You must address it promptly and hold them to the change. How do you communicate effectively with your people? Are you modeling good behavior? If so, then you can ask the team to rise to this occasion. Are you stopping poor behavior? If a team member continues to communicate ineffectively you must take action for their sake and for the sake of the team. 

Cloud points out that, as the leader, you create the memory from which your team operates. 

Looking at this example around communication, think about it this way:

 If you communicate well, you tell them:

  1. What is allowed, and 
  2. What is not allowed,  if you refuse to allow poor communication from yourself or between others. 
  3. This creates Memory. They have experienced you communicating effectively and experienced you supporting anyone whose communication is not strong to strengthen it so, they can relax and do the work, we call this productivity.

It then becomes simple/memory for your team to see your actions and follow your lead. It also becomes simple/memory for you to illustrate that you live out the same expectations you have for them—so you expect nothing more and you will not tolerate anything less. 

We look forward to having more coaching conversations with leaders this year that lead to accountability and productivity. 

SquarePatch Objectives 2021

This year, our chaplaincy team has three strategic objectives birthed from what we observe in the workplace during the pandemic:

  1. Coaching conversations with leaders that lead to practices that directly impact their leadership and performance.
  2. Create practices that help workers and the workplace have more purpose, meaning, and joy.
  3. Deepen the quality of our care with employees that directly impacts their personhood and performance.

These objectives came out of a time of observing and listening to the losses and longings employees and leaders have shared with us.  They will function as a means to see transformation in lives as well as the workplace.  We want to impact both the person and their performance at work, believing that the personal and professional are somehow tied together.

Under each objective, we’ve outlined some actionable items and themes we’d like to focus on with leaders…again based on what we observe and hear from the worker and and the workplace system.  

We believe the workplace deserves purpose, meaning, and joy by nurturing a humanizing environment through care, coaching, and counseling.