Goals drive your company's success.

They provide measurable and achievable outcomes that power productivity and inspire your team to achieve more. And setting exciting objectives is the best way to communicate that you’re working toward something together.

But what happens when you don’t meet your workplace goals? How do you motivate your team when they start to feel meaningless? You have to reach further — by shooting for ambitious goals that feel nearly unachievable.

These are stretch goals, a form of motivation that relies on challenging your team to push harder and reach for the proverbial stars. It's all about lighting a fire that burns away any complacent thoughts, replacing them with targets that bring inspiration and drive.

What is a stretch goal?

A stretch goal is an objective that requires a higher-than-usual level of effort and risk. It’s generally based on an outcome that isn’t totally impossible, but certainly improbable. You and your team set this kind of goal specifically outside of your usual comfort zone to devise creative, innovative solutions.

At the organizational level, stretch goals often align with a vision statement. An auto sales company might have a vision statement that says they’re the best, even if their sales numbers are low. That company might set a stretch goal stating they’ll sell more cars than competitors. This becomes a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) — a stretch goal for the entire company.

For teams and individuals, stretch goals will be more realistic, but still just out of reach. An individual goal might be to learn a new programming language by the end of the quarter, while a team goal might be to increase projects by 50% when previous averages were around 15%. These are lofty but not impossible.

Why are stretch goals important?

Setting team goals keeps everyone working, but stretch goals motivate them to stay creative and strive for more. Here are the benefits of setting goals that are just out of reach:

Encourages productivity

Setting a stretch goal pushes team members to work efficiently. To achieve them, they must first complete their daily tasks because stretch goals usually require effort unrelated to day-to-day operational work. They can’t reach the goal without consistent productivity that goes above and beyond.

Motivates and inspires

Easy goals don’t offer the same sense of achievement as challenging ones. The latter push employees to be competitive and encourage a drive to succeed. They inspire team members to operate at a higher level, erasing complacency with provocative targets.

Boosts confidence

If your team actually achieves a goal they aren’t sure they can reach, they’ll feel more proud of their efforts when they do. It’s a significant boost of confidence that sets the tone for future projects.

Fosters innovation

When a stretch goal appears outside of your team or organization’s current capabilities, the process to achieve it will require innovation. Everyone has to come up with new ideas and solutions that may not have come to fruition without that innovation, leading to high-impact discoveries.

Increases funding

Stretch goals also pertain to funding. If you're familiar with Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you might have already seen the effects of this type of goal setting. A business might only need $10,000 to launch a new product, but setting a goal of $40,000 pushes boundaries and could help them achieve more than they previously thought.

What is the stretch goal paradox?

One thing about stretch goals is that they’re more likely to succeed when other initiatives are already going well. If your company is on a good streak and has the extra time and resources to embrace a stretch goal, you’re more likely to achieve it. But if your company is in the weeds and your staff is burnt out, a stretch goal will seem like an unrealistic burden with unnecessary pressure.

Stretch goals are right time, right place initiatives, and they don’t suit every workplace. Here are some additional challenges to keep in mind when considering stretch goals:

  • Vagueness: When stretch goals are ambiguous, they create confusion and could disconnect the team.
  • Lack of skills: If your team doesn't have the skill set to tackle your lofty goals, they might not have the initiative to try.
  • Ridiculous goals: Ambition is one thing, but fiction is another. A stretch goal has the potential to be too far out of your team’s scope.
  • Complacency: Employees involved in previous stretch goal endeavors might not feel the same motivation about doing it again.
  • Constant failure: If you've failed to achieve stretch goals over and over, your team might lack engagement or incentive for the next one.
  • Tunnel vision: Teams and managers might fixate on the BHAG and forget about regular day-to-day tasks.
  • Ethics: Pushing too hard to achieve big goals has the potential to drive people across ethical lines to achieve the goal, no matter the cost.

How to effectively set and achieve stretch goals

To achieve your stretch goals without the laundry list of challenges, here are six tips to keep in mind.

1. Define your stretch goal

Start with open-ended questions to determine what possible goals you might want to set. What's the next level of success in your industry? What current internal processes could rise to a higher standard? While generally enterprising, a stretch goal should remain relevant to your overall business goals.

2. Determine if you have the resources

Many of your stretch goal’s challenges appear when you don’t have the staff or resources to properly commit to it. A lack of personnel, space, or technology can defeat your endeavors before they start.

3. Set your stretch goal

Gather your team together to discuss the goal and open the floor to questions. Deliver a timeline and tentative action plan along with it, and decide on resource allocation standards through active brainstorming. This helps solidify your goal as a reality and encourages your team to participate in achieving it.

4. Track your progress and motivate your team

Your team has other priorities besides this BHAG, unless all of their daily work contributes to it. But chances are, they have more on their plates than just one goal. Hold routine hype meetings and milestone celebrations to encourage everyone to carve out time and work toward any and all stretch goals.

5. Learn from the results

When your timeline runs out and you've met your stretch goal, your team deserves to celebrate. But it’s also important to document what steps you took to achieve success and pour over any KPIs and OKRs from the process.

On the other hand, if your team doesn’t meet the goal, research your process and determine why it failed. Maybe it was too ambitious, or your team simply didn't have the time. Discovering the cause will give your next initiative a better chance of success.

Examples of stretch goals

Stretch goals usually appear just outside the reasonable range of success, but they’re always attainable if everything goes to plan.

Some examples of goals for employees might look like this:

  • Advance from working on random projects to leading a project by the end of the year
  • Learn an entirely new financial platform by the end of the fiscal quarter
  • Design more advertising materials than any other designer
  • Increase personal sales quota by 50% over the next salesperson

Performance goals for managers could include:

  • Increase sales department revenue by 60% by the end of the year
  • Complete twice as many projects as currently scheduled
  • Release version 2.0 of the software product six months ahead of schedule
  • Reduce employee turnover from 20% to 5%

Organizational stretch goals may be similar to:

  • Become the single best-selling car dealership in the state
  • Outpace every other project management firm by releasing twice as many projects
  • Become the best performing PEO in the Midwest by increasing NPS score to 100%
  • Send another team of astronauts to the moon by 2025

Meet your goals with Roadmunk by Tempo

On the road to meeting your stretch goals, your team will want to prioritize ideas and track time. Roadmunk by Tempo helps you organize ideas in audience-friendly roadmaps, while Timesheets by Tempo keep your stretch goal timeline on time and track.