Members of an organization are like members of a symphony orchestra. In a symphony, there are many individuals who play different instruments.

Suppose that you’re the conductor, and you need to elevate the performance of the orchestra. Simply affirming that everybody’s performance is elevated isn’t going to do it. But if you involve all members in setting the new standard, then, once all members agree to it, you can ask them to improve their individual performance. To have a better symphony, those who play the oboe or violin must improve the quality of their playing. And their playing must fit in harmoniously into the overall performance.

As the conductor, you need to lead out in setting group goals. Remember to apply the basic principles of goal setting in groups to ensure that you still have followers.

1. Get the big picture.

See your organization as a whole entity. If you only set goals in one area, you may run obsessively after one goal, focusing all your energy and creativity in one direction or department while frustrating all others. So look at what makes up the whole of the way you run your business. Look for models of healthy organizations and ask questions like “How are they structured? How does manufacturing work with marketing? How do they maintain good relationships with customers and suppliers? How do they create an environment for growth?” If you set goals in one area, you’ll drive in that direction, but it may throw everything else out of order. This balanced goal-setting process will take some real thought on your part and the part of the people you’re working with. What makes up the whole? Where are we presently? What would be ideal? What is the way we want it? How can we grow?

2. Put the pieces into sequential order.

Ask your team, “What is imperative? What is essential to keep this organization viable and alive?” An imperative is that without which your organization will fall apart. What are your priorities? You can’t do them all at one time. You might work on 15 goals at the same time, but not all in one area. You want to work with some balance, but which ones are you going to choose? Take time to figure out what is most important to you, and put those things into a sequential order. That’s where you set your goals and you let the rest of that drop to the side or take a back seat.

3. Involve people meaningfully.

If you just tell people what to do, their goals become a have to. There’s no sense of shared ownership. So sell the value in the goal or vision that you want to achieve, instead of announcing, “All right, folks, here’s where we’re going to go, come on, move it.” Believe me, your goal won’t be a “move it” with them. So, ask yourself, “How do we weave the new fabric into the old? If I want the organization to grow, how can I show somebody else the value for them in achieving this aim or this end? Not everybody works for the same reason. How can I prove to them that we all need each other; that if they meet the group goal, and we’ll all benefit and be successful?”

4. Create constructive images.

team work

Often, we try to motivate people with fear by telling them what we don’t want. We talk about survival, about loss of business, or about all the bad things that may happen. Let’s talk in the positive vein about what we do want. Remember, you move toward what you think about. If you’re thinking about survival, that’s all you’re going to get. If you’re thinking about loss of market share, that’s what you’re going to work toward. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, list those things you do want as a group.

5. Share accountability.

As the leader, you can’t just sit down and say, “Well, why don’t they do something about this?” because what we do in our organizations is push all accountability to the top to keep control when we need to push accountability down and make everybody wake up.

Suppose that you and a companion are invited to a party in an area of town where you don’t know your way around. Your companion is doing the driving and has a map and instructions on how to get there, and you’re just along for the ride. You have some trouble finding the address, but you finally arrive at the party. You have a good time, and now you want to go home. But your friend says, “I want to stay a little longer. You take the car; I’ll get a ride home with somebody else.”

Remember, you didn’t drive. But you take the keys, and start driving in the direction you think will lead you home. The next morning, your friends asks, “How did it go last night?”

I guarantee you’ll say, “I got lost, thanks to you, because I didn’t know where I was going.”

“But you came right with me.”

“I know, but I didn’t watch where we were going because I thought you were going to drive home.”

You shut off your awareness when you give up accountability.

6. Avoid imposing time limits.

Often people put time limits or deadlines on their goals when they set them. Sometimes that’s necessary. But suppose that your teams sets a time frame based upon present resources, or present know how, or current technology. You then lock yourself into a budget and schedule. Suppose your time line is two years, but you could have done the task in six months had you known about or heard about some resource when you set the goal. Once you lock on to some time limit, you tend to reject that it could be done faster. So, I suggest that you keep yourself free of time restrictions, wherever possible.

Naturally, you need to have sequence and order, but many managers use deadlines to create motivation. But when you put time limits to make people do something, people push back, as the work becomes a “have to or else.” And so you get into procrastination, slovenly work and creative avoidance. Then you think you need more discipline, and so you impose more rules and fall back to a command-and-control style. But this only works against your system. If you keep yourself free of time restrictions and focus on improving the process for getting work done, you will sharply reduce the cycle time.

7. See your goals as done.

Write your group goals in present tense, as if they are already accomplished, and then affirm, “The building is done; the game is won; the business is mine; the book is written; the change is made.” As with individual goals, the discrepancy between your affirmation and current reality will cause the creativity, energy, and urgency needed for resolution. The discipline of seeing yourself through the event, the crisis, the change, allows you to work effectively during the process, without feeling all uptight and stressed out.

8. Respect confidentiality.

If you announce a goal or surprise people with a sudden change, many people will likely work against you because all the emotional stress hits them at once. You need to sell the dream, and give them the chance to visualize it. In early stages, you only share your goals with your partner or spouse in areas that will help both of you grow together.

9. Make ongoing modifications.

Once a group meets a goal, members tend to flatten out and have down time. So if you want continuous improvement and growth, don’t wait until you achieve the goal; as you approach it, see past your original goal and set and assimilate a new one way out here. This will drive you through the goal. Of course, you’ll still celebrate the achievement, but you won’t stop. You keep your organization moving because you’re now chasing a bigger goal.

10. Write and affirm your group goals properly.

team achievements

If you are serious about growing an organization, you will learn how to write and group goals that meet the following criteria.

Personal. You need to change your organization, not another. Write your group goals to trigger imagery in first person plural form (“we”) so that you see yourselves doing it.

Positive. Always trigger the picture of what you are trying to become, not what you are leaving behind. Being positive means affirming the attribute you want to acquire.

Present tense. Write all your goals in the now, as if you already have the characteristic or acquisition before you ever do. Because, you are assimilating into your mind the desired behavior, as if you have already done it, you already are present tense.

Achievement-oriented. Indicate achievement, not ability. Don’t say, ”We can be the market leader.” Sure, you have the potential to be, but you need to say, “We are the market leader,” even though right now you’re not. When you say, “We are” when you’re not, you’re creating a healthy tension. When you affirm you are, then you behave that way.

No comparisons. Don’t compare your organization to others; if you want to grow fast, focus on what you want to do, where you want to grow, how you plan to improve quality. Your hang-up is you. If you look around, you’ll always find companies that are better or worse. So what?

Action words. Write your goals and affirmations using action words. Make the picture a moving picture: “We smoothly, we quickly . . .” “Put in words that would cause your pictures to move.

Emotion words. The more emotion, the faster the change. “We joyously. . .we happily. . .we proudly. . . .” Put in words that will give you the emotion that you wish to absorb into your system.

Accuracy. Be as specific and accurate. The clearer the picture, the faster the change. Say exactly how you want to change. Otherwise, you’ll be vague: “We’re going to be a lot better this year.” How much better? “Just better.” Don’t give yourself an out; be specific. That way, you get better feedback. You can then measure yourself against your vision.

Balance. Set goals in a variety of are as personal growth, family growth, financial growth, spiritual growth, social growth. Choose areas where you may want to expand or grow because you know you have a lot of potential in those areas.

Realistic. If you can see your group doing it, the goal is realistic for you. Don’t worry about where the material or people or information is coming from, and don’t worry about not knowing how at the present moment. Affirm and imprint what you want, using pictures, words and feelings.

You, the conductor, might affirm, “We are this, and we are that,” but that doesn’t cause any accountable action on my part. To inspire people to progress beyond their present capability, you need to look for ways to affirm each member of the team. For example, if you can get the president of an organization to make affirmations not only to upgrade his or her leadership performance but also to enhance the skills of all members of the team, then team performance will rise. You may affirm the shared ideals, mission, and goals, and assimilate that into your system: “This is the way it is.” And yet some individuals in the company don’t care about the overall picture; all they care about and affirm is their piece of it, their growth, their department.

As a leader, you need to get everybody aligned. If you see there’s selfishness or withholding or people working against each other, you can’t affirm, ”We work in harmony, cooperation, and love.” You might say those words, but nothing will happen.

You need to affirm: “I cause the harmony, the team effort. I cause it by the way that I talk, nurture people, and build trust in the organization.” You can’t affirm for me. In a team or family affirmation, you might get several people focusing on the same affirmation. But in your affirmations, you still use first person: “Because of my leadership, the members of this organization are,” and then go on to affirm what you want.

If you affirm “we are,” it has no influence on me; however, you can influence the group or team by the way that you perform your piece of the action. The group will change based upon the leadership, inspiration, direction, or encouragement that you provide. If you want to elicit something out of a team, you can say “we,” but to make a change, you must say ”I” and “me.” Affirming the “we” won’t make much difference. Everybody can see the main mission and goal, and everybody ought to affirm those ends, but then it breaks down to that personal accountability. Each person must be accountable to grow and enhance his or her individual performance.

So, when you make group or team affirmations, always add your own personal part, your accountability for causing the action and the growth. Otherwise, you’re wasting effort to affirm the “we.” Use your own words, because different words have different meaning for different people.

If you try to push an affirmation on your team or family, you say to them, “Here, you need this.” They’re going to push it right back: “I’ll tell you what you need.” Remember: your team and family members are affirming something all the time in their self-talk. As a team leader, you can influence their affirmations. The question is: will you inspire them to be positive and constructive, leading in the direction you want to go, or allow careless team talk to affirm a different direction?

So, how do you get people to expand and grow? You encourage your team members to take charge of their own futures. You might try the following activities to get them involved.

team spirit

1. When you have people who don’t want to affirm or aren’t involved in the written part of the affirmations, put the affirmations on signs and post them on the refrigerator, bedrooms, locker room, or boardroom. As team members come and go each day, they read these posters and assimilate the affirmations.

2. Play music that is uplifting, positive, constructive, and supportive of your team affirmations.

3. Read and recommend articles, books, and poems that paint a vivid image of the qualities and characteristics you would want assimilated by your team members.

4. At the end of a daily practice session, briefly talk about how things went, asking “What did you enjoy today? What was the most fun, the most exciting, the best thing that happened to you today?” Allow team members to express a positive feeling or experience, and then ask them, “And what are you looking forward to tomorrow?” So, you take them from a fun, warm emotion of today and drop them into a positive expectancy for tomorrow. High performance people always have a positive expectancy of things occurring in the future. You, too, can develop that habit.

5. You might say to them: “I’ve set some goals myself lately. And I know how I want things to end up. This is the way I see things happening for us this year.” What you’re doing is getting them to project themselves into the future, in the way they choose to have things go, with strong emotion and clarity to the picture.

6. At mealtimes and other times you’re together, be aware of what= you talk about and how you talk. You can direct the conversation and project it into a constructive event in the future. You can affirm: “I see you as being . . . .” You need to affirm people constantly into that future state.

7. Identify areas where you feel your team members need to grow and then affirm them into that state. Make affirmations to build their esteem and teach skills to build their confidence in those areas. Write personal affirmations about how you are going to influence their development.

8. Schedule special activities and near-term events that they can look forward to with great anticipation. People care about making affirmations if they care about having a successful date, ballgame, test, or presentation. Just ask, “How do you want the event to come off? How do you want the party to be? How would you like to perform at that event? Let’s write how we want it to be.”

You get them to describe it and write it out, and then read it back to them again and again, saying, “Let’s see if we can add to this. Tell me a little more. Let’s write that down so we don’t forget it.” What you’re doing is assisting them to meet a challenge, and then you go on to face another one, and another one. If your team stays together for a while, you can get team members in the habit of planning the way they want events in their life to occur. After they get into this habit, you can say, “What else? What more can we do?”

You and your team members will care about making affirmations when those affirmations are tied to results you really care about. Encourage them to make a “shopping list” of what they want things to be like and what they’d like to have. On a personal level, maybe that’s earning a better living, getting a better job, being popular, looking good, having new clothes, driving a new car. Use the natural things that they desire and show them how they can obtain those things as a natural consequence of obtaining the team goals. Help them see that if they want to achieve their long-term goal, “here’s what you need to do this week.” In a natural way, enhance the way they’re doing things now; and before you know it, they’ll be setting their own stretch goals, affirming them, assimilating them, and achieving them on their own.