Skip to content

Goal Setting Mastery: 10 Vital Questions to Set Winning Employee Goals

4 minute read

By Stavy Papasotiriou, Organisational Psychologist, Employee Happiness Consultant, and Founder of Work Unlocked

Are you tired of setting goals that feel more like burdens than inspirations? Does your team need a boost of motivation to conquer their objectives? Fear not! The secret to successful goal setting lies in asking the right questions from the start. So, grab your favourite mug of coffee, put on your thinking cap, and prepare to embark on a goal-setting adventure. Don’t worry, we won't drown you in technical jargon.

By the end of this article, you'll have all the tools you need to craft captivating goals that ignite your employees' passion, supercharge their performance, and pave the way for your organisation's triumph. Ready? Let's dive right in!


Ready to conquer the world of goal setting? We've got ten essential questions that will help you create a comprehensive and powerful goal-setting process. Let's dive in and make goal-setting an adventure!

  1. Are the goals too specific?

Specific goals can help to focus efforts, but they can also be counterproductive if they are too narrow. When goals are too specific, they can blind employees to other important aspects of the problem. For example, if a sales team's goal is to increase sales revenue by 10%, they may overlook other critical factors such as customer satisfaction and retention. To remediate this, be sure that goals are comprehensive and include all the critical components for firm success (e.g., quantity and quality).

  1. Are the goals too challenging?

Let's find the sweet spot between motivation and frustration. Goals that are too challenging may lead to demotivation and a decrease in self-efficacy. Therefore, it is essential to provide employees with the necessary skills and training to enable them to reach their goals. Additionally, avoid harsh punishment for failure to reach a goal, as it may create a culture of fear and limit employee innovation.

  1. Who sets the goals?

Embrace the power of involvement! People tend to be more committed to the goals that they help set. This involvement helps create buy-in from employees, who may be more likely to set challenging, achievable goals. So, steer away from assigning goals, and shift towards agreeing on goals with employees.

  1. Is the time horizon appropriate?

Short-term goals may harm long-term performance. Be sure to set goals that strike a balance between short-term and long-term outcomes. This way, employees will focus on achieving their goals while investing in long-term organisational objectives.

  1. How might goals influence risk-taking?

Unmet goals may induce employees to take risks to achieve them. It is important to articulate acceptable levels of risk and to provide employees with guidelines on how to approach risk-taking. This way, employees will understand the boundaries within which they can take risks and the consequences of taking unacceptable risks.

  1. How might goals motivate unethical behaviour?

Goals can narrow employees' focus and make them less likely to recognise ethical issues, leading to the rationalisation of unethical behaviour. To avoid this, set multiple safeguards to ensure ethical behaviour while achieving goals. Leaders should serve as exemplars of ethical behaviour, and the cost of cheating should be greater than the benefit.

  1. Can goals be tailored for individual abilities and circumstances while preserving fairness?

Individual differences may make standardised goals inappropriate, yet unequal goals may be unfair. Therefore, strive to set goals that use common standards and account for individual variation. This way, employees will feel that their goals are achievable and fair.

  1. How will goals influence organisational culture?

Individual goals may harm cooperation and corrode organisational culture. It is important to consider setting team-based goals, especially if cooperation is essential. Additionally, it is necessary to think carefully about the values that specific, challenging goals convey.

  1. Are individuals intrinsically motivated?

Goal setting can harm intrinsic motivation, so it is essential to assess intrinsic motivation before setting goals. If intrinsic motivation is high, avoid setting goals, as employees will be eager to pursue their goals and perform well without the need for external regulation.

  1. What type of goal (performance or learning) is most appropriate given the ultimate objectives of the organisation?

Choose the right goal for the right task. Performance goals are best suited for stable and well-defined tasks, where the focus is on achieving a specific outcome. In contrast, learning goals are better suited for complex and uncertain tasks, where the focus is on acquiring new knowledge and skills to adapt to changing circumstances.


By following the roadmap we've laid out, you'll stride confidently towards setting your employees up for greatness. Remember, it's all about finding that sweet spot - goals that challenge, inspire, and align with your organisation's long-term vision. Take the time to ask, listen, and adjust along the way. Your goals should be like a thrilling adventure: challenging, attainable, and full of exciting twists and turns.

Whether you're a manager or a team player, understanding the power of goals is key to personal and organisational triumph. Let's dive in, ask the right questions, and pave the path to success together!


About the author

Stavy Papasotiriou is an organisational psychologist and the visionary behind Work Unlocked — a leading HR consultancy on a mission to revolutionise employee engagement, performance, and retention in businesses worldwide. With a profound understanding of HR practices, Stavy leverages psychological principles to unleash the untapped potential of workforces. At Work Unlocked, Stavy crafts bespoke strategies that are grounded in research and tailored to each organisation's unique needs. These strategies are designed to yield remarkable results while requiring minimal resources.

Keep up to date with the latest events, resources and articles.

Sign-up for the Engage Employee Newsletter