The Right Way To Set Team Goals

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Article by 
Cascade Team
  —  Published 
February 2, 2023
July 25, 2023

There are organizations that set team goals, and there are organizations that achieve their goals. What sets them apart? 

Employee engagement. 

According to Gallup’s latest research, only 2 out of your 10 team members are engaged at work. Many companies fail to turn their strategic vision into reality because leaders overlook this vital cornerstone of success. 

When people don’t care about their work or the big picture, they won’t make a meaningful contribution to the team or the organizational strategy. On the flip side, Gallup’s research shows how engaged employees drive business performance:

  • 18% increase in productivity
  • 23% increase in profitability ($$$)
  • 66% increase in employee wellbeing (leading to better performance)

Successful strategy execution relies on employee engagement. You can’t brute force success with a top-down directive where C-suite leaders bark orders to their minions. Instead, you must combine a bottom-up and top-down approach. By embracing a collaborative approach that gives everyone a voice, you can improve employee engagement and build high-performing teams.

Read on to explore the six pillars of effective team goal-setting and how you can create a mechanism that leads to more engaged employees, faster strategy execution, and better business outcomes. 

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It all starts with strategic clarity

In Cascade’s 2022 Strategy Report, we found a mere 46% of team members feel like they’re part of the company strategy. If you don’t share your strategy with your people, they will operate on assumptions and their own initiative. Without context, teams start rowing in different directions, and resources go to waste.

Stomp and shout all you like, but when it comes to a lack of strategic clarity, the buck stops with the leader. If you want someone to blame, you’ll find the culprit in the mirror. 

How to improve your team goal-setting with strategic clarity

With strategic clarity, you can keep everyone on the same page. As you improve team alignment and employee engagement, you positively influence business performance. 

According to LSA Global research, highly aligned companies have almost 17 times higher employee engagement. The result? 58% faster revenue growth and 72% higher profit margins.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Communicate the company's strategic priorities so your team has a clear understanding of direction and how can they contribute to the success
  • Align team goals with company objectives to help everyone connect their daily actions to the company strategy and vision.
  • Give everyone access to the information they need on any project in real-time. This open collaboration will help eliminate silos to create a transparent environment.

When you give employees clarity around their role and how it relates to team goals and the company's vision, you empower them to deliver a more significant impact. 

📚 Recommended readings: Strategic alignment: Why it matters and how you do it 

Establish the process with the right framework

Anyone can dump a list of business goals in a spreadsheet. But nine times out of ten, those lofty ambitions will soon be forgotten, doomed to gather mothballs on some dusty laptop or cloud folder. 

You can plan innovation in the boardroom, but it happens on the ground. Your customer support department, marketers, sales team, and the people creating your products and services are the ones who will understand the need to adapt better than anyone in the C-suite.

If you want to keep your business strategy top of mind and drive tangible progress on your team goals, you must use a framework that encourages people to take action.

How to improve your team goal-setting with the right framework

There are many different goal-setting frameworks. You must choose the one that fits your organizational culture. Here are a couple worth considering:


The SMART goals framework is a popular approach. Teams can set targets according to the following criteria:

  • Specific. The goal must be clear and simple to help people focus.
  • Measurable. Tracking progress drives motivation and builds excitement.
  • Achievable. Setting realistic, attainable goals ensures people stay engaged.
  • Relevant. Team goals should align with the overall strategy.
  • Time-Bound. Every goal must have a deadline to keep progress moving.

SMART goals work well with key performance indicators (KPIs), and the OKR framework discussed below. 


OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a trackable, goal-setting framework to assess performance and progress at every level, from a broad organizational view to individual people.

There is a lot to love about the OKR framework, as it helps:

  • Align employees to your company goals
  • Give clear direction to every team and employee
  • Improve accountability and transparency on every goal
  • Provide accurate real-time insights to make informed business decisions

With strategic OKRs, you can align team expectations with the company vision and help everyone stay focused on what matters. 

📚 Recommended readings: 13 Goal Setting Templates for Teams: Don’t Fall Behind in 2023

Create a feedback loop

Collaboration thrives on feedback. Providing strategic clarity to employees is a good start that helps them understand why their work matters and how they contribute to the company’s performance. But when you combine a top-down and bottom-up approach, ongoing communication is crucial for success.

"The main reason performance can fail and/or be unproductive is because there is no regular feedback-gathering culture in place throughout the organization in between performance cycles." - Brandon Bett, Director of GTM Enablement at Cascade

40% of employees are actively disengaged when they receive little or no feedback. With regular chats about performance, you’ll help employees understand how they can make a positive impact on team goals and the company strategy. 

How to improve your team goal-setting with feedback

Give your team members the opportunity to brainstorm and define goals on their own. After, you can provide feedback, and collaborate with your teams to refine their individual goals and ensure everything makes sense for the company’s long-term goals. 

During team discussions about goals, here are some key questions to ask:

  • Are our goals too ambitious or not?
  • Have we assigned the right metrics to measure success? 
  • Do we have an action plan to hit milestones within the time frame?
  • Do we have enough resources for each project?
  • What could we do differently or better on any project?
  • Should we adjust resource allocation to improve workflows or performance?

You don’t need to micromanage people or interfere in their daily work. With an open feedback loop, you can check in to get regular insights from teams about their progress toward team goals. 

And in return, you can provide constructive feedback to eliminate confusion, reduce wasted time, and ensure everything (and everyone) stays on track.

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Establish a habit of tracking progress 

There is no point in setting team objectives if you don't keep people accountable. By tracking your progress, you can gauge the impact of everyone's work and identify where the team is getting stuck. 

You don’t just track progress to keep people accountable—it also helps you to deliver results faster. If you don’t maintain a real-time overview of performance and progress across all projects, you won’t be able able to identify underperforming areas and adapt goals before it’s too late. And so, you risk wasting valuable resources and time. 

How to improve your team goal-setting with tracking habits

It comes down to developing good organizational habits. Here are some ways you can encourage employees to be more diligent about tracking team goals:

  • Delegate. You can assign responsibility to make it clear who should track performance on each project or team. Alternatively, giving teams autonomy to set and track their own goal empowers them to devise creative ways to deliver the best impact. 
  • Gamification. Review42 reports that 90% of employees feel more productive with gamification elements and 72% are inspired to work harder. 
  • Set up regular reviews. You can schedule weekly reports and check in with your team members to identify issues and help them if needed. 

For example, here at Cascade, everyone is tracking their objectives, goals, and major projects in our strategy execution platform. 

Each team member posts their weekly update in Cascade and adds a short explanation of what’s happening with their goals. 


It can be done in a written or in a short video explanation (max 5 minutes). The goal is not to discuss day-to-day details but to highlight the next steps, major milestones, or setbacks. 


In this way, the whole team can collaborate in real-time, see the incredible stuff other team members are working on and how is everyone contributing to overall success. 

"Transparency and accountability is the name of the game." - Tsering Redmond, Head of Marketing at Cascade

Reward success 

All too often, milestones pass by without employees getting the thanks or credit they deserve from their leaders and team members. How can you expect people to do their best if they don’t feel valued?

 69% of employees claim they would work harder if they felt recognized. As you drive individual employee engagement, it leads to more effective teamwork. Companies that use incentive programs report a 79% success rate in achieving team goals.

Consider the e-commerce chain Zappos. The company created a strategic employee recognition program with a peer-to-peer format, enabling employees to share rewards. Through low-cost, high-frequency rewards, and a collaborative ethos, Zappos helps teams reach their objectives and nurture a stronger company culture. 

How to improve your team goal-setting by rewarding success

  • Set up an incentives program. Even with clarity about their role, many employees need a little more motivation to do their best work. A rewards program can help people do more for the team by pursuing individual goals.
  • Use apps to improve internal communication. Gartner reports that CEOs rate culture as their biggest concern when it comes to in-office and work-from-home environments. In an age where remote work is the norm, virtual and even in-person team-building is increasingly vital for employee engagement and retention.
  • Publicly recognize employee efforts. Even if you believe your goals are achievable, you must prove to your employees that the company cares about its people. Call out big wins on social media and internal chat groups, giving kudos to the individuals involved. 

Strive for continuous improvement

As mentioned, an open feedback loop helps you achieve team goals. Two-way communication encourages a free flow of information from the top-down and bottom-up. This environment increases trust between team members and improves company-wide employee engagement.

Discussions around improving processes and behaviors are not awkward conversations about negative issues that happen once in a blue moon. Instead, there is a casual, ongoing conversation about continuous improvement.

A McKinsey client used this approach to reduce its product testing process time by 80%—saving the team ten weeks. 

How to improve your team goal-setting with continuous improvement 

When you encourage feedback from employees on your goal-setting approach, you can figure out how to drive more effective performance next time around.

For this to work, you must build a culture of continuous improvement, where everyone collaborates to evaluate the chosen approach and gives their opinions on what the company could eliminate or change to deliver better results.

This continuous improvement of your goal-setting approach thrives on active, open discussions between leaders and employees. 

Here are some questions you can ask: 

  • Do employees think you give good feedback?
  • When's the best time to give feedback? 
  • What's our biggest challenge as a team? 
  • How are they satisfied with our current processes?
  • How can we improve the way our team works together?
  • What are the biggest time wasters for you each week? 
  • Is there anything we could eliminate, automate, or outsource? 
  • Is there anything else you think we should be doing as a team?

Encouraging two-way communication and a focus on continuous improvement show employees that leaders value their opinions and care about making the company better for everyone. This collaboration keeps people engaged in their daily activities, helping them achieve their team goals. 

Set and execute team goals with a strategy execution platform 

Perfectly defined goals are no guarantee of success. It doesn't matter how slick your presentation was at the company's monthly slideshowfest. How can you expect your team members to effectively contribute to business performance if they don't feel involved?

A top-down approach to setting goals relies on leaders to lay out the company vision and filter it down through the ranks. On the other hand, a bottom-up approach gives your team members the opportunity to tell you how they can contribute to the company’s success. Combining these methods makes everyone feel more involved and, as a result, more engaged.

Cascade can help you give your team clarity on the what, how, and why of their goals with structured plans in a centralized platform. Anyone on the team will be able to focus on efforts that drive progress while staying aligned with the company vision. And you will be able to have real-time visibility into what’s happening across your team. 

Do you want to create strategic goals that engage employees and drive business performance? See how Cascade can help with a free demo today.

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