Why setting strong goals for managers is a top priority this year

You’d be hard-pressed to find an HR thought leader who doesn’t believe that having great mid-level managers is one of the greatest, if not he larger: indicators of a high-performing team.

If training and developing your organization’s managers isn’t one of your top priorities this year, it probably should be. Consider these statistics:

  • 60% of HR leaders say “leader and manager effectiveness” is their #1 priority in 2023, according to Gartner.
  • 65% of managers feel unprepared and find it difficult to carry out their duties.
  • 56% of employees say that having a good boss is one of the most critical factors in staying with their company.
  • 64% of managers have “high confidence” in their leadership abilities, while only 37% of employees are impressed with their bosses’ management skills.

The data is pretty clear that having good managers is vital to business success. But what do goals have to do with it? And how do you know what the right goals are for managers?

John F. Kennedy once said: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” From first-time managers to veteran executives, effective leadership requires continuous learning and broad goals that promote personal and professional growth.

What are the goals for managers (and how do they help)?

A large part of a manager’s job is to help his team and its members achieve their goals. But don’t forget that managers need support and direction too!

In fact, managers need to focus on the well-being of their team members and make sure that everyone is doing their part to meet the organization’s goals. But outside of team and company level goals, managers must also have clearly defined personal and professional goals to help them become more effective leaders.

The effectiveness of the manager is almost always directly related to the success of the team. Managers who get the professional development they need and work on their own leadership goals are also the ones who lead high-performing teams. (Performance can be contagious that way.)

Types of managerial objectives

The specific personal objectives that a manager should have are just that: personal. Just as each individual employee has different strengths and areas for growth, so do managers. The key is to understand what a successful manager looks like in your organization, and to figure out what each manager must do to achieve that ideal.

For example, many people are promoted to manager because they were high performers in their previous role. But while they likely have the job-related competencies to manage the team, they may or may not have enough leadership skills (especially if this is your first manager role). These people may need to focus on areas of personal development, such as improving their communication skills, learning to give constructive feedback, active listening, etc.

On the other hand, if you have an experienced manager who is new to the company or to a particular role, you may need to set goals that are more focused on industry knowledge or role competency.

For example, if you have a manager who effectively led your marketing team but will now also manage inside sales staff, you may need to learn more about sales and how the team culture differs from what you’re used to. Employees need to know that their manager understands what they do every day and that they can relate to the unique challenges of the role.

Objectives and Key Results (OKR)

There are many different processes and methodologies for setting goals. Which method your organization chooses is a matter of preference and what works best for your organization. What matters most is that you have a proven system because you don’t want to leave goal setting to chance.

15Five uses and recommends the OKR system for goal setting at all levels of an organization. The Big O (Objectives) represents the goals of the organization, teams, and individuals (including managers). KR—Key Results—provides the metrics to measure performance toward those goals.

OKRs help align and motivate teams and individuals to achieve personal and professional goals. They describe what an individual (or team or organization) wants to achieve and what success towards that goal looks like. OKRs offer a way to formalize job performance goals for managers and document an action plan to achieve them.

Management training and coaching

Effective managers can motivate and enable their direct reports to perform at a high level and reach their full potential. They can have a lasting impact on a team and an organization.

But this does not happen by accident.

To say that someone is a “born leader” is to understate them. Sure, some people are born with certain traits that lend themselves well to leadership, but most great leaders become who they are through learning and personal growth.

But not all managers get the development they need.

Surveying managers and employees for our 2023 Manager Effectiveness Report, we found that managers are desperate for more training and development, and employees want their managers to get it. (We also found that more than 76% of candidates for open manager positions are more likely to accept a position when offered management training or training.)

With a formalized management development training program (and a goal-setting framework like OKRs), managers can set their goals and identify the training they need to become better leaders.

As Kathi Enderes, vice president of research at the Josh Bersin Company, said: “Developing the kinds of leadership skills necessary for today’s world of work requires more than traditional training. Training, practice, and ongoing feedback are required to achieve sustained change, and most companies have found this type of development prohibitively expensive. Solutions like 15Five Transform can help companies foster these next-generation leadership capabilities in a scalable and efficient way.”

Learn more in the 15Five Manager Effectiveness Report

We surveyed 1,000 managers and 1,000 employees across the US on tracking productivity, manager effectiveness and training, career growth, and career development. See what our study found about how employees and managers (really) feel about training, development, and goal setting.

Get the report >