Strategies for managing a team having unrealistic targets

In recent times, with sluggish economy, executives in a desperate pursuit to grow are ignoring reason and setting growth targets that are overwhelming; the pressure to perform and grow is, put simply, too high. But as a manager, you have the responsibility to ensure that unreasonable targets don’t unleash detrimental behavior within the team.

When saddled with unachievable goals, your role is to mitigate negative consequences. There are a variety of techniques you can try.

Firstly, if you are given a target for your team that you believe is unattainable, it’s your responsibility to share these concerns with higher-ups; calmly and rationally share the facts. Unrealistically high targets can motivate employees to deploy short-term tactics that can be destructive in the long run. Less-common but potentially dire consequences of unrealistic targets could include unethical actions viz. charging customers for services they didn’t want or invoicing for work that never happened etc.

Make sure you’re focusing the team on constructive approach, while keeping an eye for behavior and conduct.

Engage the team in generating ideas: Make sure there is always a constructive option for what to try next. Ask questions. What approach is working? Where do we get traction? Also, provide data where possible to help team garner insights, inspiring novel ideas.

It’s important to define the off-limits options: Be unequivocal and have open discussions about the types of behavior that aren’t acceptable, “What we are not willing to do for achieving a target” and “What are possibly the short term gains but long term pains”. This helps create a strong social and moral pressure within the team.

Setting up clear boundaries for good and bad behavior will be helpful, but it won’t necessarily be sufficient to curtail counterproductive or unethical behavior.

You need to be vigilant about how your team members are working toward their goals; probe about the techniques that are working, get into details. Make it unambiguous that you’re paying attention to what they achieve and also how they achieve it.

Be extremely careful not to disparage a team member or cause embarrassment for not reaching targets. Don’t compare team members with one another instead focus on strategies that are working.

Finally, if an unreasonably high target is materializing, question the extraordinary result. Dig into the numbers and understand what makes the outlier successful. This will allow you to test for an untoward approach and manage any unethical conduct. And, in cases where you find that everything on the upward graph was for good, it will give you an opportunity to share the successful approach with other team members.

A little skepticism is warranted when faced with unrealistic targets.

For detail reading on the same please refer to the main article from where we have summarized: https://hbr.org/2017/01/managing-a-team-thats-been-asked-to-do-too-much

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