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5 Tips for Effective Business Goal Setting

Rowing requires a crew of eight oarsmen to row in near-perfect unison to win a race. Each crew member has a distinct role. The coxswain steers the boat, makes tactical calls, and encourages the crew, while the “stroke” sets the cadence of the blades in and out of the water. The middle crew in positions 3, 4, 5, and 6 are the most powerful rowers, keeping the boat steady and on course. Rowing is a cooperative sport, requiring each crew member to have clarity of purpose and a clear goal. The combination of clear purpose, goals, and crew execution results in a successful race.

We can use the race analogy to look at professional goals. Goals are the finish line or measure of success. They provide guidance and direction to the organization, and therefore must be in alignment with the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Mission, vision, and values engage employees’ hearts. Goals call them to action.

Have you set goals for your organization this year? It’s not too late! Here are five tips to an effective goal process that will get your team rowing together.



1.) Invest time in planning

Developing a course of action that determines the organization’s future direction requires a thoughtful investment of your time. Be intentional about what you wish to achieve and who you will include in the planning process.

Take a structured approach. Use one of the popular goal setting frameworks, such as OKRs, BHAGs, or SMART goals, to guide your team through a collaborative goal writing process. Hire a guide to facilitate the process and keep the team focused and on track. This will minimize frustration while increasing trust and engagement.

2.) Engage your team in the process

Consider who you will engage in the goal-writing process. An interactive approach which includes executives, mid-level leaders and teams requires more time and collaboration but yields greater engagement and ownership. When collaboration breaks down, don’t let those situations impede your forward motion. Address issues promptly. Keep teams engaged and focused on outcomes.

3.) Ensure goal alignment

Alignment goes beyond mission, vision, and values. Goals should give balance to the organization. Individually, a new growth goal may contribute to the success of the business but what are the consequences when churn is not considered? Goals are interdependent – a change in one demands an adjustment somewhere else. When the tension between competing goals is not recognized, considered, and managed, it strains viability and introduces competing resource priorities.

An effective process keeps an eye on alignment. Ensure congruency by considering dependencies and cross-organizational impact.

4.) Communicate for buy-in and action

Simple, clear, and frequent goal communication creates understanding and gains employee buy-in. Before communicating, seek to understand what people think and feel. Plan your communication to address anxieties, clear confusion and call to action.

Under communicating is a common problem. Remember, the marketing rule of 7 applies – your team needs to hear or see the message at least 7 times before they buy into it. Reference goals frequently to keep people focused and to show the relationship between goals and organizational activities.

5.) Evaluate Performance

Peter Drucker famously said, “what gets measured gets managed.” At this point, you’ve done the hard work of building clear goals aligned with the mission and communicating the goals to the larger organization. Now, it’s time to execute, measure, and adjust.

The business cliché that everyone must be rowing in the same direction has merit. Like the rowers, the only way for an organization to achieve alignment is through a clear and common set of objectives. Give the gift of clarity and achievement this year by investing energy in getting your “crew” rowing together.

Effective business goal setting motivates employees, sets the course, and moves businesses forward. Connect with the Human Capital experts at Fahrenheit Advisors to maximize the value of your goal setting initiatives. Contact us today at

About the Author

Jennifer Finn provides expertise in employee engagement, talent development, performance management, organizational development, human resources assessments, learning and development, and executive coaching. As a resourceful leader and expert communicator, Jennifer understands how to identify and align operational and talent management objectives to achieve profitability and business excellence while focusing on talent, performance, and culture.