In previous columns I defined the first characteristic of a successful team,  trust, and the second characteristic, a dynamic group process. The third aspect of a successful team, as described in the book  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is having common goals. Most managers assume that once they define the goals, all the employees are instantly on board. However, employees’ actions often reveal confusion, or even worse, quiet rebellion. How do you get everyone engaged to meet common goals?

Break down the goals . Start with company-wide goals such as profitability or client satisfaction. These broad goals should be broken down into more specific goals that apply to each division. Defining goals for the sales division is pretty straightforward—goals are usually based on monthly targets to meet the company’s revenue goal. Goals for the production team can include decreasing lumberyard runs or setting and meeting project schedules.

Get the team involved in setting goals. Ask the team to suggest goals. This can be done in a series of meetings or during a retreat. Management can also make suggestions, but the group process is critical to finalizing goals. For example, for a goal of an 8% net profit on all jobs, management may need to give the team a broader view of what that means and point out possible hurdles. With team input, management may choose to update or set a different goal. If they opt to set the 8% net profit goal, they will have a better understanding of the issues the team faces and can work on solutions. Though this process seems long and unwieldy, it becomes easier over time and can pay huge dividends.

Set SMART goals . Goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-oriented. If you want to increase net profit, an unproductive statement is “increase profit on every job”. A goal that follows the SMART guidelines would be, “increase net profit on every job from 6% to 8% by cutting production costs by 1% as measured by job cost reports from QuickBooks within 3 weeks from collection of the final check, and increasing sale prices by 1%.” In some cases, you can add an additional item: resources. This refers to assigning employees to each step in the process needed to meet that goal. Tim Faller   is president of   Field Training Services   and author of The Lead Carpenter Handbook.