Team Manager Tips: Goal Setting and Getting Out of the ‘Nag Zone’

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Team Manager Tips: Goal Setting and Getting Out of the Nag Zone

October 08, 2015

Written by Robin Holt Flachbart

A very wise (and successful) Team Manager (TM) once made a great impression on me at our Alabama Affiliate TM training. She recommended ‘team building’ as the first priority of the DI season. She reminded us that a certain amount of team bonding and trust must serve as the foundation for a creative and successful season. As we all know, the beauty of DI is that each team can create its own definition of a “successful season.” Therefore, after the team has had some time to bond, yet still early in the season, I take them through an exercise of defining their goals.

So why should we encourage our teams to set goals?

I think there are at least two compelling reasons: 

First, goal setting is key to success in school, college, and in life! It is a fundamental skill that teaches the student to break down complex projects, such as our Team Challenges, into more manageable steps. It is one of many life skills that we have the privilege and opportunity to pass on to our DI students.  

Second, goal setting encourages the team to take ownership of its DI season. I have seen the most enthusiasm and work ethic in those teams who take ownership of what they want to achieve during the season. When the team gets discouraged, tired, or is not using time wisely, having a set of goals in front of them is a good reminder for them of what they want to achieve. I learned the hard way that nagging and lecturing the team on time management is not always effective. However, when I remind them to look at the goals they set for themselves for the season, they are more likely to re-focus and get back to work. 

So what type of goals should they set?

I try to keep it simple, encouraging them to create at least two sets of goals: Team Goals and Personal Goals. They discuss what they want to achieve during the season and agree on their Team Goals. I also have them individually share, if they are willing, what their personal goals are for the season. It is important to me that each student grow from this experience, and so their personal goals are just as important as their team goals. We record the Personal Goals as a list with no individual names attached.  The students can also set long-term and short-term goals if they wish at that time or as needed during the DI season.

Here are the tips I give my students about goal setting:

  • Write them down! 
  • Set goals that are specific and measurable (or observable).
  • Set realistic goals with one or two “lofty” or “stretch” goals.  Achieving realistic goals can provide motivation.  Lofty goals help them dream and reach further than they think possible.
  • Goals are a tool, not a self-evaluation exercise.
  • Goals can be re-evaluated and changed.
  • Revisit goals after each tournament.

What types of goals should they set?

I leave that choice to the team, but here are some ideas if they don’t know where to start:

  • Practice Instant Challenges at each meeting.
  • Learn a new skill during the season.
  • Qualify for the next tournament, such as the Affiliate Tournament or Global Finals.
  • Gain confidence in performing in front of an audience. (One student on my team set this personal goal last year and recently commented that DI helped her achieve this!)
  • Learn to keep an open mind and not immediately dismiss another team member’s idea.
  • The possibilities for goals are endless. However, you may want to remind them to set at least one goal: to have fun! I often tell my team that if they are not having fun, we need to revisit what we are doing!

Do goals make a difference? Absolutely!

My team learned quickly how powerful goal setting can be. During the season, I encouraged them to set short-term goals for what they wanted to achieve during the Team Challenge solution process. I was astounded when they started taking charge of their Team Solution and keeping themselves on task…no nagging necessary! They set goals, divided up the work, and re-assessed their progress after each practice. I know my fellow Team Managers would agree that seeing them show this level of maturity is worth more than any tournament award.

So what’s next?

My goal is to teach my team how to plan and run their own meetings. I want them to be able to walk into any setting, such as a club, organization, school or work project and hit the ground running with the ability to organize a group and achieve results.

About the Author: Robin is a five-time DI Team Manager with the Alabama Affiliate. She is a former NASA aerospace engineer now working on History and Art History degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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