• Leila Ainge

The power of group goal setting

Updated: Apr 22

Current research around motivation and goal setting is starting to challenge the ‘one size’ fits all concept of goal setting, suggesting that success factors should be more aligned to individual motivation and personality and wellbeing.


Aristotle said that if you have a clear purpose you will be driven to action, he believed that we all strive to reach our potential.

In the 1960's Edwin Locke the guy behind SMART goals, builds on that purpose and action philosophy, with a motivational angle, his studies said we should be specific.

This Goal Setting Theory is the one you are probably most familiar with, and lots of researchers have built upon on, not only should we use SMART goals but we should be setting Big Hairy and AUDACIOUS goals (see the book Built to Last)


Fast forward to the 1990's and research by Ludwig and Geller (they used pizza delivery drivers) emphasised the need for regular feedback, whilst Carol Dweck’s work on Growth Mindsets delivers insights into what happens when our beliefs shape our chances of success or fulfilling our potential.




Sports Psychology delivers, possibly some of the most interesting insights into how individuals respond to goal setting. In one study, researchers found the process of goal setting reduced distractions making it more beneficial to extroverted personality types.


Mindfulness and visualisation techniques are also known to enhance the way we achieve our goals, just vthinking of the outcome through your own eyes or from someone else’s perspective are two very different visualisation techniques- if you have narcissistic tendencies then visualizing others watching the glory of your achievement is going to be more impactful!


If you are interested in sports psychology this is a great paper with a review of current literature


The secrets to goal setting are within these theories & frameworks, goals are as complex as the people setting them!

whether you goal is short, medium or long term it’s going to be impacted by your previous experiences, your environment and habits.


Outside of the corporate environment it’s easy to see why personal goal setting might fail if it doesn’t build in feedback, remember the pizza delivery drivers? Their performance dropped when they stopped getting feedback


If you set a goal is set in isolation, is it too easy or too hard? How do you know?

These ideas are all elements of what makes group goal setting so valuable, and it’s a model that is used very successfully by the weight loss industry and increasingly by apps that use ‘bots’ to give virtual feedback.


Of course, sometimes we are just too nice to ourselves, we shy away from setting ourselves stretching goals because we lack confidence, we are protecting ourselves from failure.


Here are the secrets I think are useful for personal goal setting, the final success factor is linked to well-being, if your goal is aligned with other well-being areas in your life it becomes a goal that helps you thrive in life.



1. Use a goal setting framework like SMART- It’s a great starting point

2. Consider what is motiving your goal, performance, success, or failure?

3. Review the goal with someone you trust- is it too easy/hard?

4. Decide how you will get or capture feedback.

5. Pivot – at the first sign that a goal is unattainable shift your energy. It’s not a personal failure unless you expend time/energy/money on it

6. Mindset- What is your perception of your chances of success? People who believe in their ability to achieve goals perform better






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