How to set personal goals for your team

Kamil Burczyk
4 min readMar 14, 2021

When you are a leader of the team, you definitely care about their engagement and motivation and you probably know the importance of setting up the goals and fulfilling them. It can be your company policy to set up goals that support their development or your own leadership idea. I want to show you which method has worked for me the best so far.

Let’s start with the method right up and later let me explain it in the details. This is the template me and my direct reports have used this year to set up our goals:

Table with 5 columns: Quarter, Category, Objective, Key Results, Notes/achievements and 3 rows: Project, Hard skill and Soft skill

Let’s dive into WHY?

We all agreed it’s much easier to set up, track, and progress on shorter goals. Sure, you may have people in your team who exactly know where they want to be in a year’s time (I’ll cover them in a bit). But the majority of people don’t necessarily plan that far and if you are working in an agile environment it may be even hard to predict the state which will be relevant. That’s why we set quarterly goals. Now, how to approach people with a long-term strategy? Simply split it into smaller parts and track it quarter by quarter. Do you want to learn a new skill? Ask yourself what you can actually achieve in the next 3 months and put it there.

Why 3 goals and why those topics? Well, I’d rather focus on 3 things over the next 3 months and deliver them in the best possible way than start 10 things and deliver none of them.

When it comes to specific directions I want people to think about the project they are currently developing, a hard skill, which is a new solid ability they are going to possess, and a broad soft skill, which will make them a better employee, no matter the specifics of the current job.

Is it enough? Depends on how you understand it. For me, a development plan was never your job description, which means you will do things outside of these defined goals at work. This is your guide and your checklist to make sure you are developing in all areas.

Objectives and key results

When it comes to methodology my company introduced OKRs last year and for me, from the beginning it sounded like a very clear way of defining goals.

In a very basic sense, each of the goals is represented as an Objective (the What) and Key Results (the How). You can check the theory behind OKRs saying that:

  • for each Objective you should have about 3–5 Key Results
  • KRs should be measurable
  • Objectives should be aspirational yet achievable, with 70–80% of a target being considered as a good score
  • fulfilling all KRs should be equal to fulfilling the entire Objective

To be honest, I’m not always that strict and sometimes allow to miss one of the rules, but it’s good to have this guidance when defining your goals. Remember: done is better than perfect — it’s better to have a non-perfect development plan than constantly polish unfinished one.

Your role as a leader

In the end, what is your role as a leader when your team members set up their goals? For me, it’s being a mentor and a coach. It’s their plan and their development. It needs to fit their path being aligned with a wider group direction. When it comes to the project area I can be more of a mentor, as I may know more about the project direction and what are the goals to be achieved there. But still, without a person’s buy-in, it’s very unlikely to be a huge success.

When it comes to personal competencies I turn into the coach-mode. I ask questions, go deeper, but not enforce my will. Can unveil possibilities, but it’s not entirely up to me what the person should learn next.

How to do it

I prefer to have a dedicated one-on-one session with each of my team members to talk exclusively about goals. A template is known upfront, each person is asked to prepare their plan prior to the meeting. We book 1 hour to focus on that topic. And we make it clear we would like to get out of the room having a plan defined, even if it’s not perfect (we all love the meetings where the outcome is just another meeting, right?).

Final thoughts

The last thing we’re doing is storing our plan in a place that is easily accessible and editable. Some of us even prefer it to be public (is it really a secret what new skill you are learning?). We add a new Notes column and put our activities related to a specific topic there when the time goes. Whoever tried thanked me later during the end-of-year performance review — it’s so much easier to see the goals, the notes, the achievements and refer to them when you sum up your whole year.

Now open your notebook and define your very own development plan!

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Kamil Burczyk

Head of Engineering at William Hill, fitness and technology geek, Apple fan