It’s that time of year at my office. We are going through that fourth-quarter exercise of planning and budgeting for 2018. As such, my team is also working on defining goals for which we will be measured next year—goals that will impact both team and personal performance.

Now, I have to admit, I can get a bit cynical when it comes to goal setting. It all sounds great when you first create your goals. But after a few months, the goals seem to lose their meaning, and we lose our motivation.

As a leader, how can you determine a direction for your team that is highly motivating and aspirational but also practical and achievable? ConantLeadership, an online leadership community, states that it’s the leader’s responsibility to create goals that “pursue the ideal, but stay anchored in the real.” We’ll explain in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

If you dream too small, nobody gets excited. Where’s the rush in maintaining mediocre standards? There’s no opportunity for growth. And the feelings of fulfillment after the goal is accomplished are muted, even dull. If you dream too big, people become demotivated because the goal is too lofty. What’s the point in trying if the goal is unachievable anyway? People need to feel that there is a meaningful opportunity to show what they’ve got.

It’s the job of the leader to find a middle ground to create a direction for the team that is unifying, inspiring and invigorating. In a recent blog, ConantLeadership recommends these three factors to consider when choosing goals for your team:|

1. Get real. To create the “real” part of the goal, you need to first assess the reality of where your team is today. What are the things that aren’t happening—that are getting swept under the rug. Are you really tracking the results of your email campaigns? Do you adjust based on the quarterly sales reports? ConantLeadership says that to move forward, you must start where you really are today.

Ask your team questions like: What are the obstacles we face? Is there anything toxic about the team or company’s culture? What are the resource constraints? What old paradigms are crippling you? What’s your biggest strength? Your largest weakness? What grandfathered-in behaviors and practices need to be abandoned?

Do an audit of your team’s performance as is stands right now. Make a list of issues of concern as well as strengths. This is the foundation for establishing the right goals.

2. Honor every stakeholder. If you’re really going to choose a goal that is aspirational and achievable, you must ensure it motivates the most people. You might not be able to inspire everyone, but the more stakeholders you consider, the better the chance the organization will be motivated. Take the time to think carefully about all the voices that touch the core issues. What are the different outcomes that drive them? Some might be solely interested in shareholder return, others in talent recruitment and others in the customer experience. How can you creatively find ways to manifest a uniting vision?

Ask team members what propels them forward. When do they feel most engaged in their work? How can you choose a goal that helps replicate those conditions, but pushes it even further? What does the data say? When the things you’re measuring were good in the past, what were the conditions in the organization that led to that positive performance?

3. Be crystal clear. Once you’ve done your due diligence and developed a direction that pushes people and gives them ample opportunity to deliver, it’s time to make sure that everybody is on the same page.

Dispel ambiguity. Ensure that the expectations of the new direction are clear to everyone and that they are equipped with the tools they need to bring it to life. This step requires perpetuity. You should repeat the goals often throughout the year. Put them in your email signature. Create signage for the office. Whatever it takes, continue to make your goals a rally cry. You can’t overdo your actions in communicating the expectations.

Try these three steps and impact the motivation of your team and the productivity of your organization.

Source: ConantLeadership is a mission-driven community of leaders and learners who are championing leadership that works in the 21st century. Founded in 2011 by Douglas R. Conant, an experienced Fortune 500 CEO with over 40 years of leadership experience at world-class global companies, the community focuses on high-impact leadership practices to drive superior performance.