Saturday, December 27, 2008

Allowing a team to take ownership of its goals

Last week, a friend sent me a copy of Tom Osborne's book "Faith in the Game."

I've had a chance to get through the first five chapters of the book, including Chapter 5, in which Coach Osborne discusses goals and goal setting.

The following is an excerpt from that chapter:

Goals create a sense of focus and direction. A team without goals often is interested only in getting the season over with. There is no excitement or anticipation.

A team with a strong desire to achieve specific goals generates a sense of purpose, mission, and energy.

Until the early 1990s, our team goals were generally set by the coaching staff. We assumed that the coaches knew better than the players what our team was capable of accomplishing and what our priorities should be.

After three consecutive disappointing seasons in 1989, 1990, and 1991, I decided that major adjustments were necessary. It wasn't so much that our record was bad in those seasons; we finished 10-2 in 1989, and won nine games in each of the 1990 and 1991 seasons.

The disturbing thing was that we tailed off at the end of each season and did not display the drive and focus in bowl games that we needed.

As a staff, we decided that part of the problem might be related to our goal-setting procedures. We recognized that having the coaching staff set team goals gave the players the impression they were being asked to accomplish objectives that were important to the coaching staff but had little to do with what the athletes wanted to achieve.

As a result, there was less accountability on the part of players.

In 1992, in an effort to have the players take ownership of their objectives, we let the players set team goals. As the season began, we asked each player to list in order of importance five goals he felt were critical to the success of the team. We then compiled the goals listed and ranked them according to the frequency each goal was mentioned.

This discussion of goals relates to most organizations involved in competitive endeavors. The objectives and approaches presented may serve as a model for incorporating both long-term and short-term goals.

Experience taught our organization the importance of empowering the individuals who must accomplish goals by involving them in the goal-setting process. Having clearly stated this, specific goals contribute to effective performance.

It is important to have short-term goals broken down into components that enable one to see a clear relationship between daily activities and organizational objectives.

As we reviewed our goals each Monday, our players could see what they specifically needed to work on during... practice. The more players took ownership of short-term and long-term goals, the more effective our team became.