People can do good work when they work alone, but they do better when they work together. When minds work together as a team, it means people from many different backgrounds are bringing their thoughts and experiences together as one. Everyone brings something different to the table, resulting in things that one person could never have thought of or completed alone.
It goes without saying that you’ll often be placed in teams for group projects while you’re in school. In school, this is more to teach you how to work well in a team setting, but once you graduate and enter the job market, the purpose of assigning you to a team will be so you can work together and get even better work done as a result.
Once you’re working with a team of coworkers, it’s no longer a team-building exercise; at that point, you’re expected to work well with your partners, put your heads together, and submit exemplary work, even if you don’t mesh well together.
In this article, we’re going to teach you all about team goals. We’ll go over why they’re important, some prominent examples for teams to follow, and the importance of building a robust and productive group of people working together.
As we touched on above, when many people work together in one group, there are several advantages. However, there are some disadvantages as compared to working solo, too; it depends a lot on the work that you’ll be doing. A teamwork environment can provide these kinds of benefits:
- Ideas constantly flow when several minds work together
- Peer pressure makes it harder to give up or fall behind
- Everyone has different talents and strengths that patch others’ weak spots
- Many opinions and thoughts to test out new ideas
- Work gets done faster when many people are working together
However, solo work has some advantages over teamwork, as well:
- You work more efficiently when you’re alone
- There’s no waiting on other members of the group
- There’s no conflict between team members
- You don’t share credit with anyone else
Think about it this way: an artist very rarely collaborates with other artists when they’re at work. It’s the same case for a designer or a coder. Some careers just aren’t suited to working with other individuals, but most jobs in a business setting are.
Additionally, teamwork is much more dependent on the capability of the people making up the team. If only one person is reliable and capable in a team setting, they may have been better off working alone rather than being held back by their team.
However, when the members of a team all work together towards the same vision and work hard at getting along, they can produce truly great results that a solo worker might never be able to measure up to. All in all, for teamwork, there’s more risk, but also more reward. Solo work is less rewarding, but it’s a much more stable option.
Developing Team Goals
When we’re talking about team goals, there’s two main ways to think about them: goals that teams set for themselves, and goals that businesses set for teams to follow. We’ll mostly be working with the former in this article, but we’ll reference several occasions where a business might be responsible for setting goals for teams that work for them.
When a team is developing team goals for a particular project, it’s crucial that they follow specific guidelines. All of the team members should be a part of the goal-setting process, for example, lest one of them gets left behind. Understanding should be cultivated during every step of the process, and work needs to be distributed evenly between team members, to name a few examples. We’ll touch more on these below.
Before a team begins to get started on a project, they should clarify what all they want to achieve. For example, a plan to create a new, engaging sales pitch would have very different steps than those required to create a new product or service. What does the team hope to achieve? What timeline does the team want to stick to? What duties will each team member handle? When will the group meet?
Let’s say that the team’s manager has told them that their goal is to increase product revenue over the next three months. Assuming the team has been given free rein to work within those guidelines, they would then choose a clearer goal like landing more clients or increasing marketing in specific demographics.
Here are some more examples of how a team might break down a vague goal given to them by management. Let’s assume the objective they’ve been given is to “increase product quality.” They might break the goal down as follows:
- Reduce employee error rates in manufacturing
- Reduce customer returns on a particular product
- Isolate better materials for use in a given product
- Enact better employee training practices
- Increase employee monitoring on the job
- Enact better quality control
At this point, you should also make sure your team approves of and understands all of the goals you’ve identified. If team members don’t agree, you may need to take another look at individual goals or explain things further. It may be beneficial to break significant goals down into several smaller ones to promote ease of completion and understanding.
Take each goal and write down key points of each one, all the while making notes about what will be needed to get it done, how long it might take, how much work it needs, and what other parts of the process it might complement well. Dissecting your objectives like this makes the next step of the plan proceed much more quickly and easily.
Once a team has thoroughly defined their objectives, the next step is to create a plan that hits on all of those things. The team should go back and look at all of the notes that they wrote down in the last step and use these observations to help create an action plan.
This is the part of the plan where employees should be engaging in thorough conversation with each other. If questions remain about how things will get done or what terms mean, people should ask them now. Team members should also start to think about what parts of the plan might suit their talents best, in addition to how much work they can handle.
Your action plan should come out looking something like a to-do list. You should write the steps you’ve isolated down in order of importance, necessity, or convenience. Group certain tasks together that would benefit from being done by the same team member. Making multiple diagrams for this purpose may be beneficial.
Team leaders should also look into creating a timeline for the entire project. At the very least, a rough estimate on when a step of the project needs to be completed should complement every entry.
Once all concerns and questions are addressed, the team is ready to move on to the next step.
Divide It Up
The team should now look into dividing work between members of the group. Each group member should have an approximately equal amount of work, from a time-investment standpoint. Different members can have more tasks than others as long as the average time investment stays about the same.
However, there will be some times when the distribution of tasks just cannot be equalized completely, despite your best efforts. During these times, you or another team member will have to step up to the plate and volunteer to do a bit more work. If your team is one that works together on a regular basis, you can rotate this role to make it fairer.
Every team member should try to pick jobs that they are excited about and are confident that they can complete. If duties can be divided up sufficiently just by team members choosing their own jobs, that is ideal. However, if no one wants to volunteer to do an undesirable part of the project, or two team members are fighting over one job, it may be necessary to draw straws or use some other activity to assign duties fairly.
Consider the following example to demonstrate this scenario. The team has been assigned to improve product quality, just like earlier. They’ve decided to look into alternative materials to try in the product to fulfill that goal. They divide up duties as follows:
- Member 1 volunteers to find an exhaustive list of all the ingredients in the product. Since this is a relatively small task, they also volunteer to test product formulations later.
- Members 2 and 3 both want to research potential new materials for the product, so they draw straws to determine who will. Member 3 wins, so member 2 will test product formulations with member 1 instead.
- Member 4 volunteers to create the presentation that will be showed to management when the product is finished.
- Initially, no one wants to take responsibility for amassing the new materials to be tested on the revised product, but member 5 eventually steps up to the plate.
The above is a very simple example, but it illustrates the general process of dividing up the duties for the project. In actual team scenarios, there may be many more duties to divide, and team members will most likely need to do the process multiple times as the project goes on.
Special mention goes out to the division of talents among team members. If management has created a well-balanced team of individuals, there will be team members who excel at certain things and other members whose strengths lie elsewhere. When a group has broad talent distributions, the team members’ talents have a higher likelihood of lining up with different duties.
Team members should aim to play to their strengths as much as possible. Of course, if more than one team member is good at something, teams may need to get creative to divide duties properly.
Write It Down
Once duties are assigned to every team member, we highly recommend that each team create a group document or use another team work-tracking tool to keep track of work that’s been done, record each member’s duties to discourage forgetfulness and fighting later and encourage completion of goals.
Studies have shown that simply writing a goal down increases your chances of completing it significantly, so each team member should write down their own duties in a notebook or planner, in addition to the group’s software of choice.
Technologies specifically designed to track team activities, time invested, and divisions of duties are available everywhere online, but standard tools like the Microsoft and Google suites are also good alternatives.
Using such a software service is an excellent idea for teams in any setting for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Can prevent infighting later if one team member gets confused about their duties
- Employees can reference the software to see what they and the other members should be doing
- Time spent on the project can be tracked to make sure every employee is meeting their goals
- Notes, questions, or issues can quickly be shared with all group members and addressed
- Members can review objectives so that they stay on track
Most of the services specifically marketed towards teams come with a usage or subscription fee. These programs will be the most fully-featured, but free alternatives are available, too. For example, if you don’t have a group hub for posting issues and questions, a group messaging thread between members’ smartphones will work just as well.
At this point, everyone in the group should know what their duties and responsibilities are. They should also know what the goals of the project are, how they’re going to achieve those goals, when their work should be done by, and more. However, if anyone has questions, this is when they should be addressed, if they haven’t been already.
Additionally, it is just as important that everyone in the group understands each other. Besides knowing their own duties, each member should have at least a cursory awareness of everyone else’s, as well, so that they can collaborate with other members when necessary.
It happens: maybe a team member was absent during the initial group meeting and does not understand the project entirely, or maybe one group member was feeling under the weather that day and didn’t get all of their questions answered. Perhaps a disagreement between members kept one of them from understanding the full extent of the project. If this is the case, they should be brought up to speed immediately.
Timing and Deadlines
Everyone in the group should firstly know the deadline of the project itself, and additionally, should have a timeline to guide their own duties. If all the members of the team aren’t on the same page as far as timing, members might end up waiting on their coworkers to complete their duties before they can start their part of the project.
Think back to the example we created in the “Divide It Up” section. Member 1 needs to find the list of ingredients for the product they’ll be troubleshooting. However, if member 1 doesn’t get this done right away and deliver it to the team, member 3 won’t be able to research alternative materials for the product, and the project itself cannot move forward.
If one member of the team doesn’t take deadlines seriously, it can create friction with other, more serious team members, besides affecting the project itself. However, timelines should always be reevaluated if members are ahead of schedule, too.
Just because one team member got their job done early doesn’t mean the next person has extra time to do their job. They should move to do their part just as quickly. If enough team members can get their work done ahead of time, the whole team might be able to get the project done ahead of schedule, which could result in some rewards!
Track and Share Progress
Tracking everyone’s progress plays a massive part in remaining faithful to the deadlines you’ve set. Obviously, if something happens to impede the project that’s out of everyone’s control, delays will be inevitable. However, team members should work together to mitigate as many preventable delays as they possibly can.
By keeping careful track of their progress, each team member helps keep the entire project on track. If worse comes to worst, management can also work to monitor problem teams and make sure they stay on schedule, but it’s much better if a team can manage to handle this themselves.
Even when a team is able to manage their own progress, it’s still important that they share their progress with management, too. If a team makes an effort to share what they’re doing with those in charge frequently, the team will know right away if they should be moving in a different direction, if something is fundamentally wrong with their project, or if management has any suggestions for them.
If a team or group fails to share their progress until far into the project, they may end up wasting time on a concept that management doesn’t approve of. Moreover, management could view this as bad communication practices when a group fails to report on their progress.
Besides what we’ve already listed, frequent communication and progress-sharing has several other benefits:
- Reporting frequently locks you into a set schedule and teaches time management skills
- Progress sharing keeps management and team on the same page, as well as all team members on the same page
- Sharing progress frequently can help team members set aside time to work on their parts of the project
- Frequent progress reports help teams recover from setbacks in a timely manner
Proper alignment is an essential aspect of team goals. The goal of the team needs to align correctly with the goals of upper management, first and foremost. When team brainstorming is happening, teams can sometimes overthink to the point where they lose touch with the original goal they were given.
As such, it’s essential to get the approval of management for any topic, as well as frequently referencing the overarching goal of the project. If even one team member feels that their goal might not align properly with the greater purpose they were given, the team should make sure to ask management questions and cover all bases.
Moreover, the goals of the team should align with each other. Everyone on the team should want to get the project done in a timely manner, with good quality, and according to the guidelines given to them by their superiors. If any one team member doesn’t align with these goals, it will cause problems for the entire team (and for the business as a whole, most likely).
Whenever possible, your team should aim to do things that push themselves just a little more each time. When you challenge yourself, it causes rapid personal growth in addition to impressing your superiors.
If not all of your team members are on board, however, then you should at least make personal challenges a priority. If your team members are unwilling or unable to take on more, whether it’s because of personal preference or events in their life, you can’t fault them for that.
If you’re only looking to challenge yourself to impress your superiors, it may be difficult to do so in a team setting. Traditionally, the credit for a project is split evenly among team members when it’s completed successfully, so unless management decides to monitor individual team members’ progress closely, your extra contributions might end up misattributed.
However, if you’re in it for the personal growth, taking on the most difficult portion of the project whenever it comes around might suit you well. After all, if you’re humble about the part you’ve played in a project, that humility, despite the extra effort you’ve put in, has a way of being rewarded eventually (or at least recognized).
Unless you’ve had truly awful team members who have contributed nothing to the project as a whole, we don’t recommend going to management on your own and telling them of your increased contribution. They can view this as arrogance and unwillingness to work with others, or even as attempts to garner more recognition for yourself. It’s best to let your work speak for itself, instead.
Challenging yourself has more benefits than you might think, such as:
- Increased creativity
- Better awareness and knowledge
- New skills
- Personal growth
- Discovering more about yourself
Incentive is a powerful thing in any setting, but especially a group setting. Sometimes, management might set incentives up for employees to reach for as they work (think employee of the month stuff here), or you can even set your own between group members. If your group is friendly and familiar with each other, placing friendly bets or competitions is a great way to encourage mutual growth.
An employer, for example, might be willing to buy pizza for the team that does the best job on a quarterly project. Among group members, though, whoever’s been voted to have done the best job might receive a “pot” of money, a gift card reward, a special celebration of some kind, or some other creative reward.
By setting up an incentive, both of these scenarios help employees to work harder and better. Management might be offering some sort of incentive for a job well done anyway, but an inter-team one might help inspire members to work hard even when they don’t think they can win the other reward.
It doesn’t have to be a big or special incentive, either. Potentially, a team could even set up a system like, “the hardest worker for this project gets to do the least amount of work on the next project.”
More so than anything else, team members, managers, and employees alike should make sure to celebrate a job well done. Obviously, the team that wins the incentive will have something to celebrate already, but those who don’t win should be personally praised for their efforts, too.
There’s a different kind of incentive that teams should use between themselves here, too: the reward for doing their job well. Perhaps, after a team has worked hard on a project together, they could all go out to dinner or some other event together to de-stress, let off some steam, and celebrate their work. This applies whether they’ve won a bigger incentive or not!
Celebration and incentivization work hand in hand to help employees feel good about the work they’ve done. If neither of these is offered or encouraged, employees will just feel worn out and drained with their project comes to a close. With some sort of celebration on the table, they’ll have something to look forward to when the hard work finishes.
As long as a team of employees is friendly, open, and serious with each other, they’ll be able to set relevant, attainable goals that will help them do an exemplary job.