Perhaps you’ve heard the motivational saying: Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.
Albeit a little cheesy, it’s still a solid aphorism about the value of aiming as high as possible to maximize success! Even if you don’t hit the moon-equivalent target 100% – you’ll have made substantial progress in the right direction towards those glittering goals.
Goal setting is an essential part of leading a productive and driven team. And incorporating ambitious stretch goals can be an effective way to further expand capacity, accelerate growth, and hit targets beyond original expectations. Read on to learn more about this goal setting approach, and the top 10 ways stretch goals help teams succeed.
What are stretch goals?
Before we dive into the types, examples, and benefits – what are stretch goals exactly? Stretch goals are intentionally grandiose targets that push teams out of their comfort zone and boost overall morale, growth, and performance for the organization.
Counterintuitively, the main objective of stretch goals isn’t necessarily to achieve them. In fact, they are typically set to be unrealistically ambitious on purpose! This creates a genuine challenge and shakes up routine standards of achievement to counter workplace complacency.
Unlike proximal goals or SMART goals for example, which are measurable and actionable – stretch goals aren’t necessarily based on a clear timeframe or deadline. Instead, stretch goals are often communicated as vision statements. Vision statements are broad aspirations for a company’s direction and future. They are usually kept within the organization as inspiration for the team to push expectations of publicly communicated goals, which might be more prudent. The idea is that stretch goals inspire team morale and create drive to overachieve, landing the final outcome somewhere beyond the intended objective, which is a win.
Let’s go over the two kinds of stretch goals with some practical examples.
Vertical stretch goals
Vertical stretch goals ‘raise the bar’ and are meant to push teams to aim higher with their existing resources, projects, and targets.
Example: A startup’s goal is to hit $1M in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) by year two, but an added stretch goal might be scaling that goal to $1.5M for the same timeframe.
Horizontal stretch goals
Unlike vertical stretch goals, horizontal stretch goals are set to help a team expand outward rather than up. These goals help improve existing processes, innovate new products, and can promote capacity growth by equipping employees with new skills or senior responsibilities.
Example: Training your marketing team in a new social media platform to reach a previously untapped audience to widen the customer base.
10 stretch goal benefits to help your team
Now that we’ve covered all the basics of what stretch goals are – let’s look at the top 10 stretch goal benefits for teams.
1. Maximize success
Looping back to shooting for the moon! By setting team sights higher, stretch goals help improve chances of success even when ambitious targets aren’t achieved 100%.
By aiming beyond what would have been a ‘safe’ or reasonable goal – inspired teams can ultimately accomplish more than they would have thought possible.
2. Inspire innovation
When you set a high-risk goal that requires considerable effort to even attempt achieving – you create an opportunity for major innovation.
Setting a stretch goal can pop the bubble of workplace complacency to make way for creative thinking, initiate the review of existing processes, and generate ideas that wouldn’t have been necessary to achieve more modest goals.
3. Encourage collaboration
When everyone is pretty good at what they do day-to-day, organizations might not need involved teamwork to reach their regular goals. Team stretch goals can spark amazing brainstorming meetings to generate new ideas and realign the group on a shared mission.
These ideation sessions also help build confidence, trust, and valuable interpersonal relationships within the group. This is especially beneficial to remote or hybrid teams who might have much organic opportunity for engaging collaboration.
4. Boost motivation
Motivation is fueled by a certain level of challenge. When teams become complacent in their routines and performance standards, it can actually impact productivity by causing demotivation. The reality is that only 34% of US employees are engaged at work.
When the daily standard of achievement has become routine, inspiring your team with an ambitious stretch goal can rejuvenate their ‘why’ at work – providing more meaning behind their efforts towards an objective.
5. Improve workplace wellness
When employees are genuinely motivated and connected at work, they feel happier and are up to 20% more productive. This is fueled by intrinsic rewards which are a positive internal experience like feeling accomplished, proud, or aligned (as opposed to external rewards like a raise or bonus incentives).
A lack of intrinsic rewards around work can result in higher levels of mental exhaustion, or even job burnout on the team. But when stretch goals help employees feel inspired by their work, they help create positive emotional experiences that increase output and improve overall workplace wellness.
6. Reduce turnover
We’ve already mentioned that stretch goals promote productivity and foster better engagement on teams. And while it might seem obvious, employees who feel like valued team members are 87% less likely to leave their job.
When individual employees are encouraged to work towards a collective stretch goal and feel recognized for their efforts by leadership and their team – companies successfully reduce turnover rates while their teams’ productivity rises. A win-win.
7. Peak team performance
When individuals are pushed to apply themselves towards vertical stretch goals, or get the chance to develop a new skill or take on bigger responsibilities for horizontal stretch goals – you create a valuable growth opportunity for the existing team.
How does this help? Employees who work on special projects outside of their daily tasks - like a challenging stretch goal - are 50% more likely to learn new and valuable skills that assist them in their current roles.
8. Develop company culture
74% of US employees say that company culture is a top contributing factor to their job satisfaction, and in turn, positive workplace satisfaction boosts productivity by up to 31%. Stretch goals can offer an awesome chance to align the entire team with a mutual mission and reinforce positive company culture in the process.
Shared company goals highlight how employee’s efforts contribute to the bigger cause. By building out a solid vision statement for a stretch goal – companies can emphasize their values and inspire the team so they walk away feeling confident in what they’re working towards.
9. Generate insight
When workplace complacency affects employee motivation, engagement, and wellness – testing a technique like stretch goals to evaluate effectiveness can offer executives insight into their team’s performance and capacity.
Employers who improve their workers’ engagement by just 10% can raise company profits by up to $2,400/employee every year. A new approach is an effective way to switch up routines to encourage motivation and help identify areas for improvement in teams’ regular workflows in the future.
10. Have a goal to look forward to
High-performance stretch goals push teams to exceed standard achievement expectations – and even just accomplishing a fraction of an ambitious objective is often a major success!
When these goals aren’t 100% achieved, they can still provide value in becoming future goals to be worked into a more achievable timeline to keep teams on course for the moon (if you will).
Challenges of stretch goals
Stretch goals can offer huge benefits to teams, but when not properly implemented, they can just as easily hurt productivity. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you make the most of stretch goals for your team.
Tips for successful stretch goals:
- Balance the challenge of stretch goals with the capabilities of the team. The best goals require a degree of risk, but should still feel ambitiously achievable to maximize motivation.
- Clearly articulate your vision statement so the team can fully grasp the purpose and rally behind the stretch goal.
- Prioritize skill development when possible to support employees with the tools they need to work their best and execute lofty goals.
- Recognize and show appreciation for dedication. Building confidence, trust, and personal value among the team is key to maximizing performance and creating a better workplace culture.
- Reduce pressure so you don’t overwhelm and discourage employees with a potentially unachievable goal, or create tunnel vision where other responsibilities fall to the wayside.
- Celebrate the small wins to boost morale and minimize disappointment if the stretch goal isn’t achieved. This creates sustainable drive in the long run and makes stretch goals a positive experience (not something to dread).
- Don’t overuse stretch goals. Keeping stretch goals ad hoc allows them to be novel experiences to pull out when you need that extra performance or want to freshen up workplace morale.
Boost team productivity with stretch goals 🤝
When used right, stretch goals are a powermove for teams and organizations to push their limits and achieve new heights.
By understanding the effect that employee motivation and workplace engagement has on the productivity of a team – techniques like stretch goals can help counter complacency and keep teams performing at their best.
How have stretch goals helped your team succeed? And tips we’re missing on this list? Tweet us @reclaimai to get in on the conversation!
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