Manager is bridge to link employee goals or organization’s goals

Dear Joan:

I supervise 63 staff. How do I assist them in planning their goals for this year? 


Their goals for the year should be directly linked to the strategic goals of the organization, so you are the link between the two.  

One approach that is frequently used is to simply ask each person to come up with one or two goals. This bottom up approach usually results in a hodgepodge of goals that may not connect to the organization’s goals. While it may help each person to make some personal improvements, it doesn’t give you any momentum as a group to move the organization forward. It also has no teambuilding component. 

Another approach is to simply tell the group what the department goals will be and ask each of them to personalize those goals to their own jobs. That is fine, but you probably won’t get much commitment. And you still won’t have much departmental coordination or collaboration. 

The following process takes more time, but even if you only use a part of it, it is likely to create more ownership, energy and departmental traction.  

First, have a conversation with your own manager and identify the two or three critical areas of focus. Even if the organization doesn’t have a strategic planning process, it is no doubt trying to grow revenue, manage costs, start some new initiatives or improve processes.  

From your personal information on your email, it appears that you manage an administrative support team that works with financial specialists. Since they support “internal customers” it would be wise to meet with senior managers who control that area and get their input, as well. They may have some valuable feedback regarding improvements your administrative team could make. 

Next, meet with your group. Since you have so many direct reports, it may be necessary to meet with them in subgroups if you can’t meet with them all together. Share the company’s goals for the year and then have a discussion about how your group fits in with the overall goals. Also share the feedback you collected from the financial specialists. Identify a few areas of focus that you want your group to work on for the new year. This should take about fifteen minutes. 

Next, ask your group to get into “huddles” of about four or five people, ask them to discuss what you presented for about ten minutes. The goal of their dialogue is to identify one or two department-wide goals that they feel would be useful and appropriate in the new year. So they are to brainstorm for ten minutes in order to generate some ideas.  

If they need help figuring out what a goal should look like, explain that it should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time specific. (Think of the acronym SMART.) You might use this personal example: A poor goal would be “Improve my overall health for the year.” A better goal would be, “To lose twenty pounds by going to the gym at least three times a week and cutting out fast food.” 

Pull the group back together and ask each group to name a spokesperson. Then give them a few more minutes to come up with one idea per group that the spokesperson will share with the overall group. (If you name a spokesperson too early, he or she may dominate the discussion throughout.) 

Write down all the ideas on a flip chart. As a whole group, discuss the list and determine which goals will be the departmental goals for the year. Next, discuss an action plan with a timeline. Finally, determine how you will all know if you have reached your goals. This discussion should help you identify some measures.  

You may also want each person to identify a personal goal they wish to work on. Each of them could get ideas from the financial specialists they support, or they could simply choose a personal thing they want to work on, such as response time or writing skills. For problem performers, you will want to make sure their goals are developed in the areas on which they need to improve.   

Because you have so many direct reports, having a one-on-one discussion with each person may be impossible. These team goals will enable you to focus everyone’s energies on some key improvements. The goals you choose may also necessitate some subgroup work. For instance, they may want to form a task force to create a new process that the whole group will test.  

At your regular staff meetings, and at a minimum at the six-month point, get the group back together and discuss their progress. Sometimes a direction change is needed, due to business circumstances, or a modification needs to be made because they’ve discovered some new facts. In any event, it’s better to have a purposeful discussion, rather than waiting until the end of the year to discuss whether you’ve reached your goals. It will make the group take the process seriously and be even more ready for next year’s goal-setting process.  

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.