Are your team members empowered, productive, get-stuff-done superstars? Or does a malaise seem to permeate the group? This second camp is not a fun place to be.
Every business leader wants team members who make things happen. The key to getting there, says Natalie Dawson, is helping them set clear goals for themselves. Dawson, author of TeamWork: How to Build a High-Performance Team, has a keen sense of what team members want. She’s hired, trained and led thousands of people over the course of her career, most recently as executive vice president and partner of Cardone Ventures.
She also knows the power of goal setting personally. At twenty years old, her boss challenged her to create personal, professional and financial goals (PPFs) for the next one, three and five years. That simple exercise felt silly at first, but it totally transformed the course of her life.
“I couldn’t lie to myself,” she recalled. “This shortlist was exactly what I wanted. I could imagine being a confident businessperson leading teams and rolling around in a new car. This exercise was the starting point for the goal-oriented, driven person I am today.”
If you want your team members to be go-getters who will actively push your organization to reach its goals, your job is to guide them to figure out their goals and coach them to achieve them. Here are Dawson’s five steps to doing that effectively.
1. Create your buckets
The PPF goal structure creates buckets to organize any goal a person can have. These three categories touch everything. After having over five hundred PPF conversations, Dawson said she has yet to come across a goal that doesn’t fall into one of these buckets.
Professional goals are focused on areas of accomplishment. This includes learning new skills or ways of operating, taking on new responsibilities, being promoted, starting new projects, receiving awards or recognition for those efforts and attracting mentors.
Financial goals could be centered around net worth, passive income, having the ability to purchase gifts, paying off school loans and debt, being able to afford family care services or achieving a target salary.
“By breaking down individual goals into these three categories, you get a solid understanding of what motivates each team member,” Dawson explained. This helps create the overall plan and compartmentalizes the goals in a structured format, which is essential to success.”
2. Talk about personal goals
Along with professional and financial goals, don’t forget about personal goals, which encompass a wide variety of things that people are motivated by: working out, playing the clarinet, traveling abroad, spending time with loved ones, learning a new language, or perhaps becoming a great baker.
While these may seem out of place for a work setting, Dawson encourages leaders to take a holistic view of their team member’s lives.
“As nice as it would be to hire people who only want to work 16 hours a day and who eat, breathe and sleep our business, that’s just not reality,” she said. “People work to be able to fund and create an impactful personal life with the people they care about.”
3. Have the conversation
When it comes to having the PPF conversation, Dawson says don’t overthink it. Here’s a conversation starter she uses with leaders who are having this talk for the first time:
“It’s fantastic that you’ve joined our organization! I know you’re two months in with us, and it’s time for us to sit down and discuss your personal, professional and financial goal planning because it’s important to me and this organization that you achieve your goals.”
Explain that, as the business grows, you want to keep their goals aligned with those of the business so you can all win together. From there, you can start by discussing their one-year personal goals. Write down what they say and make sure you really listen.
4. Listen and dig deeper
You’ll find that your team members will initially be vague. They might say that one of their one-year personal goals is to improve their leadership skills. “That’s a great goal!” Dawson would respond. “But now it’s time to dig a little deeper.”
When your team members give you vague goals (like getting in shape), use the SMART framework to run through what questions to ask to get clarity quickly.
“If a team member shares the ‘improve my leadership skills’ goal with you, dig deeper into what that looks like before moving on to the next goal,” Dawson explained. Ask, “What does good leadership look like to you? Who is someone you know who displays these qualities?”
5. Repeat the process
Keep asking questions until you fully understand each goal. Once you have clarity, move on to ask about their three-year personal goals and start the question-asking process over again. Use this process for all nine goals (one, three and five-year goals for each PPF category), then ask the team member to send you their updated goals within the next 24 hours.
Dawson also offered this tip, to ensure alignment across the organization once the PPF process is finished. “Make sure that the team member also communicates these goals with their manager, so that leadership at every level can support them in reaching their goals.”
Empower your team members to reach their goals
If you get it wrong the first few times, Dawson said you’re in good company. “I can’t tell you how many times I messed these conversations up. I can assure you that your first few conversations will feel awkward and you will run into some hiccups. That’s normal.”
Just keep pushing through and stay focused on why you’re doing this exercise. “You’re doing this to connect with your team members and better understand what motivates them.”
If you keep that intention at the core of this process, your team members will feel empowered and you’ll be able to support them in achieving their goals in a way that benefits them and your organization.