Manager Goals: The Complete Guide

Jul 20, 2023 | Performance Management

Just like any other employee, every manager should have personal goals. Having strong goals enhances performance by keeping managers focused on what they want to achieve, boosting motivation. Moreover, it helps them engage their whole team and guide them toward higher-level goals.

Manager goals can focus on specific results as well as personal development. Some goals will relate to team outcomes, while others will pertain to the manager’s growth, as we’ll discuss. 

Let’s review the benefits of manager goals in more depth. Then, we’ll explore examples of great goals for managers—and how to establish them.

Table of Contents

1. Benefits of Manager Goals

2. Examples of Manager Goals

3. How to Set Effective Manager Goals

4. Manager Goals FAQs

Benefits of Manager Goals

Why are manager goals so important?

  • Good manager goals shape an entire team’s performance. They’ll encourage the manager to focus on the right priorities, leading the team to accomplish bigger things. The manager’s effectiveness accounts for up to 70% of the variance in employees’ engagement, reports Gallup. So, strengthening a team begins with the manager—which in turn starts with great manager goals.
  • Goals boost job satisfaction and fulfillment, making work dynamic and engaging. Managers will be more likely to stay with your company over the long-term as a result. And great personal goals will help prepare them for advancement. This means they’ll see a future with your company and fit into a clear plan for succession.
  • Goals improve team and organizational culture. People work together more harmoniously when focused on common objectives. Feeling driven to fulfill a shared purpose will build camaraderie.

Now, we’ll turn to some specific examples of strong manager goals.

Examples of Manager Goals

Happy, diverse group of coworkers meeting about manager goals
Credit: Fauxels/Pexels

Importantly, each manager’s goal must be a SMART goal, meaning it’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. So, we’ve chosen examples of manager goals that fit into a SMART framework.

For instance, you may want to empower employees, but what does that mean in practice? “Empowering employees” is not a measurable outcome. In contrast, a SMART goal will state a more specific outcome, coupled by metrics for success.

Devoting time to setting SMART goals will allow you to work much more efficiently. “The 10/90 rule in smart goal setting says that the first 10% of the time that you spend developing absolute clarity about what is to be done will save you 90% of the time once you begin,” says Brian Tracy. “It can also save you 90% of the mistakes, the costs, and the time of other people involved.”

Let’s review some good manager goals within different key categories. 

Short-Term Manager Goals

Short-term manager goals are typically goals for the quarter or sometimes an even shorter time period. We’ve broken them down into goals for outcomes and personal development. Every manager should have a mix of both.

Results-Oriented Goals

These goals relate to concrete results that support organizational outcomes. They may overlap with team goals.

  • Successfully guide a new product launch. To define success, look at the specific results you’ve achieved for past launches, in terms of sales. Then set a more ambitious target. 
  • Improve customer satisfaction by 10% by enhancing their experience. For example, you might aim to respond to all concerns within 24 hours.
  • Lead an effective marketing campaign. You could aim to boost website traffic by 20%, for instance. You might also aim to lower your cost per lead by 25% by leveraging creative new tactics.

Personal Development Goals

These goals relate to skills that will further your abilities as a leader.

  • Deliver effective feedback more regularly. After all, 80% of employees who receive meaningful feedback each week are highly engaged. Metrics could include sharing at least three pieces of constructive feedback with each team member per week. Aim to share appreciation even more often.
  • Build a strong rapport with each direct report. Metrics could include understanding their career goals, learning style, and key motivators.
  • Strengthen your professional network. For example, build relationships with three new peers and attend two industry events.
  • Develop your confidence. Giving effective presentations where you share ideas could be one metric of success.
  • Delegate two tasks on your plate to direct reports, coaching them along the way.

Now, let’s look at manager goals to pursue over the longer-term.

Long-Term Manager Goals

Longer-term manager goals can pertain to the entire year, or even beyond. We’ll focus on a one-year time frame here, since job changes and external factors could make three- or five-year goals irrelevant. However, managers can consider their long-term ambitions when setting yearly goals.

Results-Oriented Goals

These goals include what you want to help your team achieve this year. They should build upon the shorter-term results-oriented goals shared above.

  • Help all low-performers on your team to contribute effectively. Establish a performance improvement plan with key milestones and criteria for success.
  • Design and adhere to a cohesive content calendar that grows your audience by 50%. Plan and implement content for your website, social media, email campaigns, and other points of engagement. 
  • Guide your team to produce three innovative new products that gain senior leadership’s approval.

Personal Development Goals

Longer-term personal development goals can prepare you for a promotion. They involve more intensive development of the human skills needed to excel as a leader.

  • Learn to motivate and inspire people. Metrics could include engagement rates and increased quality of work. For instance, you could aim to boost engagement by 15%. Performance management software can help you measure these outcomes. Employee satisfaction ratings (assessed through survey software) can also help.
  • Successfully mentor an employee to a next-level position. This should involve appropriate stretch opportunities and training. Create a clear plan with target dates for these activities. 
  • Learn to effectively manage change. You might develop this ability through workshops, mentoring, and self-reflection over a six-month period.
  • Gain a cross-functional skill set. This can involve cross-training experiences that broaden your understanding of how the organization operates. This could be a good yearly goal.
  • Improve retention by 20%. Begin by pinpointing the reasons why employees are leaving and then addressing them. For example, provide more developmental opportunities if these are lacking.

Now, let’s discuss the process of setting great manager goals.

How to Set Effective Manager Goals

Closeup of manager's hands writing goals
Credit: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Let’s walk through all the key steps of setting great manager goals. If you’re an HR director, share these steps with managers to get them started.

Conduct a Self-Assessment

Complete a self-assessment to evaluate your current abilities. This will help you target specific areas for improvement.

Reflect on Feedback

In addition to the self-assessment, consider feedback from others. Have you gone through a 360 review process? The results should play a key role in shaping your personal goals. They’ll mainly highlight which human skills you most need to develop. Such abilities are central to your success as a manager.

Understand the Qualities of Great Managers

Qualities like empathy, focus, and vision are especially important for managers. So are communication, collaboration, accountability, and reliability. Consider which of these qualities you most need to develop, based on feedback and your self-assessment.

Review the Organization’s Goals

Have high-level goals top of mind when setting your own goals. Refresh your memory about organizational goals as well as team-level goals. Then set personal goals that align with them.

Set SMART Manager Goals

As mentioned, make sure each goal is a SMART goal. This means it must focus on a specific outcome that you can measure. Goals should be ambitious yet achievable, stretching your abilities to a reasonable extent. Finally, goals should have a well-defined timeframe.

If you’re having trouble generating ideas, try these goal-setting activities. Exercises like mind-mapping and reflecting on opportunities and threats can get ideas flowing. 

To set metrics for your goals, look at current objectives and key results (OKRs) in particular areas. Then increase your target numbers by an amount that feels ambitious yet achievable.

Connect Each Goal to a “Why?”

State the reason why you want to achieve each goal. List it directly below the goal itself. The “why” will keep you motivated, reminding you of its significance.

Create Personal Rewards

Decide on a reward for achieving a major goal. This could be anything from treating yourself to lunch to taking off early on Friday after a busy couple of weeks. It may not be your biggest motivator for achieving the goal, but it will provide extra reinforcement.

Examine Your Obstacles

As Allison Walsh suggests in HBR, spend time journaling about potential roadblocks. By writing them down on paper, you can ease your anxiety. Plus, you’ll come up with ways to navigate these challenges.

Finally, have a reasonable target number of goals. For example, you might have three results-oriented goals and three professional development goals for the quarter. They might tie in directly with longer-term goals, which build upon them.

As managers set appropriate goals, they’ll find their work more rewarding. And of course, they’ll benefit from continuous professional development. 

Manager Goals FAQs

We’ll share several common questions about manager goals, along with our responses.

Are there any potential drawbacks of manager goals?

There are no drawbacks if you set appropriate goals. As with any employee, setting the wrong goals can cause frustration. If goals seem to be reducing instead of improving morale, take a hard look at them. Are they truly SMART goals?

Should managers have help with setting their goals?

Yes, managers should work with their own supervisor to set goals. If they’re in a higher-level position and don’t have a direct supervisor, they could work with HR. Enlisting the help of a career coach could provide another option. This person can work with them over time to assess and strengthen their progress.

Should managers ever change their goals before achieving them?

Yes, in some cases, managers will need to rethink their goals. Factors like outside forces beyond their control could push them to shift goals. A changing workforce or pool of resources could also trigger them to reconsider goals. For these reasons, we advise managers to revisit goals regularly to make sure they’re still relevant. 

As managers set ambitious yet achievable goals, they’ll grow more effective in their role. In turn, their team will accomplish more impressive objectives. Encourage managers to continuously set new goals as they achieve current ones. This will ensure they make continuous progress and keep growing professionally throughout the year.

Want to experience firsthand how software can enhance goal-achievement? Demo our product!

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