Setting Goals & Expectations

To excel during this uncertain time, staff need to be working with clear objectives in mind. With so many unknowns, setting goals for the upcoming year may feel difficult or overwhelming. 

Focusing on the “what” (outcomes and outputs) and not the “how” (schedules and “time in the seat”) will crystalize priorities for your team and lay the groundwork for cultivating autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Keep in mind that staff will need time to adjust to their assigned work environments for the semester. It is important to guide hesitant staff gently towards embracing the uncertainty and unique opportunities working through the pandemic brings. 

  • Ask yourself: What makes sense to tackle right now? Have you stepped back to assess your unit-level objectives? Does your team know if any priorities have changed? If your team does not know where you want to go, they cannot help you get there.
  • Provide the division and team objectives and allow individuals to craft some of their own goals. Use guided questioning to help staff develop their ideas into goals that excite them and that they can control. It may be tempting to offer suggestions or even provide goals, but by using coaching to develop goals, staff will have more ownership of their work.
  • Goal setting is a time to reflect on skill-building. A stretch goal provides the platform for developing mastery
  • This is an excellent time to make sure that your goals are S.M.A.R.T. An ill-defined goal and uncertain year equal a hazy outcome!
  • Encourage staff to break down goals into pieces so that they start with a clear roadmap. Accomplishing bite-sized pieces of goals will provide a sense of progress, which is so important to staying motivated and forward-looking.
  • Ask your staff to identify the tools and support they will need to accomplish their goals. Once you know that the foundation for success is in place, let them take off! This empowerment is what fosters innovative and creative thinking.
  • Given the uncertainty of the semester ahead, encourage staff to create plans for pivoting. Ask: How will you accomplish “b” if “a” can’t happen? And incorporate the backup plan into the goal statement. This year is an opportunity for all to learn to be more flexible and adaptable.
  • Read the reflection questions and S.M.A.R.T. goal tips on NDR ALL Resources so you can better direct your staff during the goal-setting process.

Additional Resources


If you have questions or ideas for additional resources in this playbook, please contact the Director of Finance and Administration