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What Are Stretch Goals and How to Use Them to Drive Your Business Forward

What Are Stretch Goals and How to Use Them to Drive Your Business Forward


What Are Stretch Goals and How to Use Them to Drive Your Business Forward

Do you consistently hit most of your goals? If yes, then ask yourself — are you challenging yourself enough? True progress is only possible when you set a few goals outside your comfort zone. These are known as stretch goals. 

In a nutshell, stretch goals are challenging goals that you set for yourself or your entire business. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into what stretch goals are, their benefits, and how businesses can maximize them to move forward.  

What Are Stretch Goals, and What Are the Benefits of Using Them?

Stretch goals are challenging and ambitious targets individuals or teams set, usually exceeding their existing resources and abilities. You don’t have to completely accomplish these goals. Rather, they provide motivation and direction to encourage individuals to go beyond and above their usual performance level, even if they don’t quite reach the end goal. 

The most significant difference between SMART goals and stretch goals is how realistic they are. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bounded. Individuals and teams design SMART goals with the intention of completing them. 

A SMART goal is a foreseen destination, while stretch goals act as a north star. The latter guides you in a specific direction. Think of it this way: you can set a series of SMART goals that build toward a stretch goal. 

Although stretch goals aren’t meant to get you to the finish line, incorporating them into your business guarantees benefits, namely:

Boosts Creativity

Individuals and teams can achieve common goals by working for longer hours. On the other hand, stretch goals require teams to step outside their comfort zone and get their creative juices flowing. They’ll need to suit up, exhaust a significant amount of brain energy, and approach the issue innovatively. This process results in breakthroughs and problem-solving ideas.

Makes Teams Ambitious

Stretch goals can inspire teams to envision an almost impossible goal and chase it. For teams conservative with their ambitions and goals, setting stretch goals may help them expand their boundaries.

Boosts Confidence

Confidence stems from actual achievements, not motivational talks. Setting and achieving stretch goals can improve your team’s confidence by many folds.

For instance, let’s say you’re the product manager of a new dating app. You’ve set a stretch goal to incorporate an in-app chat in four weeks. You think this goal is possible with the help of AI tools, but your team thinks it’s difficult and is worried.

To help the team, you break down the stretch goal into several SMART goals. During this time, your team’s average confidence is probably 5 out of 10 (or lower). After a few months, your team has achieved 4 out of 5 of those SMART goals. Ask them to rate their confidence level after, and you’ll be surprised to get an average score of at least 9 out of 10!

How to Set Stretch Goals

Regardless if you’re using stretch goals for your team or yourself, here are nine steps to follow:

1. Ask Yourself the Right Questions

Start by asking yourself what you want your team to achieve. Where do you want to take your business? What outcome do you like to see in the future?

Throw open-ended questions like these to your team and ask everyone to share their ideas in a safe space, free from judgment. When setting stretch goals, nothing is too ambitious. So, encourage your team to think out of the box and suggest ideas. 

2. Split Your Stretch Goals Into SMART Goals

Setting overly ambitious stretch goals is easy; creating a roadmap for achieving those goals is challenging. This is where SMART goals come in. 

SMART goals help provide motivation and clarity, allowing teams to reach targets. They act as paving stones that’ll get you and your team to your set stretch goals. 

3. Provide Autonomy to Your Team

It requires imagination to paint a clearer picture of how you and your team will achieve stretch goals. Because of this, it’s important to give your employees the autonomy to make creative — or even daring — decisions that’ll navigate the team closer to the ultimate goal. 

4. Provide Appropriate Support

Besides giving teams autonomy, you also need to provide support. If you don’t, teams will only spend their resources focusing on the tasks they have on hand instead of envisioning how to improve your business for the future. In worse cases, they might end up frustrated and wrongly conclude that their role in the business isn’t essential. 

Ensure teams are properly equipped and are provided with the right resources. This usually includes technology, knowledge (development and training), support, and supplies. Keep in mind that extraordinary challenges require extraordinary resources, so be prepared. 

Additionally, ensure that you’re giving members enough time to achieve stretch goals. Be present as often as possible to provide the support and encouragement your team needs to succeed. 

5. Use Small Wins To Drive Progress

Stretch goals can seem overwhelmingly large that individuals don’t feel motivated to reach any of them. Think about this: a climber might feel like climbing the top of Mt. Everest is an impossible task. But every mountain, regardless of how tall, is climbed one step at a time.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how large the goal is — your team can eventually get there if you break the project into small, more manageable tasks and use those tasks to move towards achieving that larger goal. 

As mentioned earlier, stretch goals will seem impossible to start, and teams might find it challenging to envision how to achieve them before starting. But with stretch goals, you don’t need to have a clear picture from start to finish — seeing the first few steps is usually enough. 

Next, set goals around each of those steps, so team members can achieve small wins along the way. These will encourage motivation and confidence and inspire everyone to move forward.

6. Anticipate Resistance

Stretch goals are unpredictable by nature. But there’s one thing you can count on: some will likely resist the idea when you first introduce it to them. They might be unhappy you asked them to take on such an enormous task or fear they’ll fail.

Communicate to your team the benefits and purpose of stretch goals. Be transparent and educate them about the risks and the tools they’ll have to use. Getting the buy-in from managers, leaders, and other stakeholders in your business will also help teams adapt to the concept of stretch goals. 

7. Provide Rewards

According to a 2016 report from the WorkHuman Research Institute, 79% of employees say recognition inspires them to work harder, and 78% say recognition boosts their productivity. With this in mind, don’t forget to provide rewards every time your team reaches any goals. 

Did the team achieve goals before the deadline? Give them recognition or praise. Were they able to exceed the expected outcome? Reward them with bonuses. 

No matter how big or small their achievement is, never fail to reward teams. Aside from encouraging them to work towards stretch goals, giving rewards creates a sense of loyalty and increases retention

8. Check-in Regularly

Giving autonomy to your team doesn’t mean you should let them work on their own from start to finish. As a leader, it’s essential to check in with them regularly as they work on accomplishing stretch goals. Stretch goals require time — some take months, while others, years. So, it’s vital to track the progress the team has made and assess if they need to take another direction or if they are experiencing any issues.

9. Don’t Punish Failure

Stretch goals are challenging to reach, and you and your team must implement strategies to achieve them. This is why it’s crucial not to discourage or punish failure. Instead, review the impact of stretch goals with your team and ask them the following:

  • Compared with the level of performance before establishing stretch goals, were there any improvements?
  • What was the level of performance compared to other teams?
  • If someone from the team hasn’t met any of the goals, have they made significant progress towards it?

These questions measure progress, not specific metrics for failure or success. 

When setting stretch goals, be honest with everyone involved. Inform them about the difficulty of achieving goals but express your confidence in their expertise and skills. Discuss why you choose them to be a part of the project and ensure they understand how you will track success. 

Ultimately, encourage team members to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Avoid putting the blame on them when they fail; help them see failures as learning experiences. 

Start Hitting Your Stretch Goals 

Stretch goals can empower you and your team to be creative and reach bigger goals. They’re an excellent way of ensuring teams stay motivated and on track to achieve your vision. But they shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Remember, they’re supposed to be difficult, so don’t be too hard on yourself or your team if anyone fails to reach their stretch goals! 

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