Published on September 25, 2018

The Good and the Bad of Motivating Your Team with Stretch Goals

The Good and the Bad of Motivating Your Team with Stretch Goals

You may have heard of “big hairy audacious goals”[1] that are supposed to light a fire under your team and produce miracles.

If failed, these stretch goals become chained weights on the self confidence of your team. They demotivate and cause hefty stress. However, if successful, profits will soar and your team will take greater pride in their work. The potential return on investment is huge.

The name of the game is risk. Not the military conquest board game, but the idea of going big or going home.

Stretch goals can seem daunting and overbearing. If made too ambitious, they are impossible. If made too easy, they’re meaningless.

There is a careful balance required to create stretch goals that will motivate your team and propel your business.

The good of stretch goals

Stretch goals inspire you to dream big and reach new heights.[2] You can take risks and come out with new business processes, profitable verticals, or greater customer satisfaction. The possibilities are endless because the goal is to break out of your comfort zone.

DaVita, an already very successful company in the health industry, was able to go from $60 million to $80 million in savings within four years by creating such a stretch goal.[3] You can break limits and defy seemingly impenetrable borders.

Already successful companies with uncommitted resources are recommended to set stretch goals. Employees have high morale and are excited to accomplish more.

Motivation is key for stretch goals because they are naturally daunting. They are also often costly. They will require more people, time and effort than a regular goal would.

You can’t keep putting in the same investment and expect a magically larger return. Having uncommitted resources means you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is.


The bad of stretch goals

As with all goals, you are not guaranteed success. If your team does not reach the goal, they are more likely to become heavily demotivated, fixated on unhealthy risks, and prone to lying about their actual results.[4]

In 2013, Wells Fargo set a big hairy audacious stretch goal that backfired as stressed out sales representatives opened 3.5 million fraudulent accounts. Such unethical behavior due to stretch goals isn’t uncommon according to the Harvard Business Review.[5]

As mentioned above, if you’re not riding recent success and don’t have uncommitted resources, stretch goals may not be for you. Your employees don’t have high morale. They will struggle when you tell them that you’re going to accomplish an even bigger goal, after having just failed to meet a smaller one.

Without the extra resources to accomplish it, the desired results just aren’t feasible. If you have one factor, but not the other, a stretch goal is still risky. Your uncommitted resources could probably be put to better use until your company has better morale.

If they have high morale, but you don’t have the resources, then ride off of that morale until the resources accumulate. Don’t push your business in ways it isn’t ready for.

How to set good stretch goals

You’re motivated to create a stretch goal. Now, how do you create that goal and share your motivation? There are five crucial steps to follow:

1. Evaluate the past

Before setting any goal, deep reflection is required.

What are the current strengths and weaknesses of your company or team? How have they responded to goals in the past? What motivates them? What demotivates them?

This is an important moment to decide how you will carry out your plan. Stretch goals will only work for you with the correct types and amounts of motivation.

So what does your team need to succeed?


2. Focus on the why

If you’re setting a stretch goal, you obviously have a reason for doing so. What is the expected outcome? What is the motivation for achieving that outcome? Make these answers clear to your employees.

If they understand the overarching vision, they will be more inspired to contribute their efforts. It’s the difference between the feeling of doing busy work and the drive of accomplishing a mission.

Create a poster that they can see every day and remember what they’re striving for. Revisit this often with your team to continually spur motivation.

Take a moment to make sure that your goal is aligned with your overarching goals. Sometimes we can get caught up in a great idea, but it doesn’t actually directly impact our high goals.

Pay attention to your company’s mission and vision. If your company needs more awareness or sales, this stretch goal should directly contribute to that.

3. To achieve stretch goals, set SMART goals

For those unfamiliar with SMART goals, it is an acronym for Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timebound goals. By focusing on these features during goal-setting, you can make sure that your goals are clear and reasonable.

This is important not only for you as a manager, but for your employees. Even though stretch goals ask you to venture into the unknown to accomplish unprecedented success, they can be combined with SMART goals to make them more achievable.

An example of a SMART goal versus a stretch goal might look like the following:

Susan will read the seventh Harry Potter book by the end of this month

To contrast that with a stretch goal, a stretch goal might look like this:


Susan will read the whole Harry Potter series

A stretch goal can sound unreasonable until it has structure to it. By using the qualities of a SMART goal, a stretch goal can become much likely to be accomplished. For example:

Susan will read one Harry Potter book a month, until she has completed the series by the end of this year

With some easy additions to the goal, we have set a clear course for Susan to reach her stretch goal.

Setting a course with deadlines and holding specific individuals or teams accountable is what makes a stretch goal SMART.

4. Do something novel

You’ll never hit a stretch goal by doing the same work you did before. Increased effort is certainly helpful, but perhaps there are new ways to solve problems. Work smarter, not harder.

You can start by interviewing employees and current clients to find common pain points. As you gather information, look for ways to increase productivity, effectiveness, and management.

You may need to diagram, track and improves processes. You might start A/B testing your website or email outreach for conversion rate optimization (CRO). Perhaps your company needs a sales rewards program or some other form of motivation.

The possibilities are close to endless. You’ll need some creative problem solvers combined with revealing analytics to find new avenues for success.

Just don’t make any risky changes without the research to back it up. What sounds cool to you might not sound cool to a diverse population of millions. Just remember how Pepsi failed with its ad featuring Kendall Jenner.[6] The amount of money they spent on that single ad shows how much of a success they expected it to be. Unfortunately for them, the response was severely negative.


Again, vet your ideas with analytics and studies. Great ideas are born out of hard work and effort. This means that many of your initial ideas may need to be tweaked before they are ready to be accomplished.

Likewise, if team members have ideas that you initially would like to dismiss, maybe you should take the time to see if they are really worth something.

5. Ride the success

To ride the success of reaching your stretch goals, you’ll first need to tell your team and company. Show how proud you are!

If there is a lot to show off from each team member, you can try putting it all into a collage maker. This form of commemoration will help inspire them towards continued success. Then, continue to make goals. If you’re not moving forward, you’re slipping backward.

And if they fail

Stretch goals lead to both failure and success. You cannot be guaranteed success every time you set a goal. But the purpose of goals is to give us a new sense of purpose and direction. They inspire us to achieve more than in the past. Stretch goals challenge us to exit our comfort zones and find new areas for profitability. If met with failure, rally the troops and evaluate what went both wrong and right. Learn from the mistakes. Move forward and march on towards new success. As a leader, your goal is always motivation.

Final thoughts

Best of luck in creating goals and motivating your team to accomplish them!

Remember that there is no silver bullet for every problem. Find the right path for your company or team and own it.

With the right mix of ingredients, stretch goals will be in your reach with success soon to follow.

Featured photo credit: Pascal Swier via


More by this author

Christina Sanders

A digital marketer who is experienced in marketing and communications, helping people to lead a successful business.

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Last Updated on December 13, 2018

There Is More to Life Than  ____________

There Is More to Life Than  ____________

I decided to leave the title of this article open ended, because I’d like you to fill in what words best fit that blank. We’re all unique individuals from different walks of life, and in different stages of life; so, that sentence will have a different meaning for each of us.

If you’re a busy working professional, why are you working in the job that you have now?

Is it because it’s something you’re passionate about and brings you a lot of satisfaction? Or, is it because you studied that in college and just found a job that hired you for those skills? Perhaps it’s because of the money that you’re earning, or know you can earn down the line?

What if you’re about to retire? You’ve got, say, 2 to 3 more years before you hit your ‘deadline’ for retiring. Have you done all that you’ve wanted to do in the past 30-40 years? Any unfulfilled goals or dreams? Are you happy with the outcome of your life to date, all the decisions and/or risks that you’ve made thus far?

I’m sure many of us started working after college in hopes of earning a good living–to be financially stable and able to afford the ability to experience and do things that we love. We start establishing a career, and with time, tick off boxes on our bucket or ambition list. As you look back on the last couple of years, just how much of your time has been spent doing things that you enjoy and love–the things that give you a great sense of fulfillment and meaning?

Have you become a slave to the economy, a slave to your work, or a slave to your kids? Or have you found a balance between work and pleasure?

When is Enough Ever Enough?

Sadly, many of us live to work.

Realists would argue that if you truly want to work to live, you still need the finances to back that up. No money no talk. That is how the world runs today. So if you don’t earn or make enough dough, it’s hard to truly enjoy life; it’s hard to be happy without money.

So, in this quest to provide just that, many of us end up spending our whole lives pursuing wealth and a life of status and material wants. But, is it ever enough? Is there such a thing as having too much money? And, at what expense?


Many wealthy entrepreneurs, millionaires and even billionaires have come to agree that money doesn’t bring you all the happiness in the world. It’s good to have, but it doesn’t truly satisfy all desires. There comes a point where you would have ‘had it all’ and still feel a sense of emptiness: an empty void that needs to be filled, not with money or material possessions.

So the question is then, what more is there to life if not for financial stability, status or material possessions?

How do we make work a part of life instead of having it consume our life entirely? Perhaps we need to go back to look at the word life itself.

What is Your Purpose in Life?

What is the nature of life? What does life mean to you? Is there a purpose?

If we seek jobs, all we will find are jobs. But if we have a sense of purpose in how we are productive; if we seek a calling, then we will find more than a job. We will find our contribution to humanity and we will find more to life. Would you agree?

Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. So it should be noted that to be happy in life isn’t always enough, because happiness is a surge of emotions that does not last. Instead, it’s more important to find and have meaning in life.

Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness, but not at all with meaning.

Have You Been Going on a Wild Goose Chase?

Ironically, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is leaving people less happy. “It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness”, according to Viktor Frankl, a famous Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor. Going back to the common example of pursuing riches in order to be happy is exactly what makes many so unhappy.

So again, look at the statement “There is more to life than ______.”


Have you answered it meaningfully? If you’ve read on this far, and are now wondering how to take that first step to figuring out what your true purpose is in life, fret not; I’m here to help you reframe your mind and actions, so that you can embark on a journey of finding true meaning to your life.

Everything that you can do and accomplish in life are bounded by 7 Cornerstone Skills. These are the true essentials needed to achieve excellence. They’ll put you on a path that gives great meaning and satisfaction in life. And, the best thing of all? They already exist in each of us. We just don’t always make the most of it, or sometimes we aren’t even aware of the power that each of these skills have to help us in life.

On it’s own, each skill is unique and can help you through different stages of life, or problems. But as a whole set, these 7 Cornerstone Skills will give you full transformation over any situation. No matter what phase of life you’re in, what you’re striving to achieve, or what feel you’re lacking, your pursuit of meaning in life will be much faster when you’re able to make use of not one, not two, but all 7 Cornerstone Skills.

The 7 Cornerstone Skills

So let me give you a glimpse into what these 7 Cornerstone skills are.


Creativity empowers you to find unique solutions to problems, and see things in ways that you least expect.

It goes beyond the artistic impressions and aesthetics, and is a crucial building block of change.


Without Learning, you will not be able to advance and progress in life. Yet, there are many of us who always fall behind not because they don’t have the intellectual ability, but because they don’t know how to learn effectively.


And then we have Memory, one of the most vital components, because without that you have nothing to fall back on, nothing to gain from all the learning or experiences that you’re exposed to on this earth.

And with an ever increasing amount of information available, how can you store up as much knowledge as you can without overloading?



And with any and everything that you do, a certain amount of Focus is always given.

Whether it’s the career ladder that you’ve been climbing, or the responsibility of being a parent, Focus is a flow that allows you to push towards the progress that you’re striving for.

Without focus, we find ourselves lost, demotivated and stuck in a rut.


Many of us aren’t happy in life or with our jobs and responsibilities because we lack Motivation, and an overarching purpose as I already mentioned earlier. Motivation helps drive you forward, and gives you the focus achieve your purpose.


If you realize, every new day that comes is filled with routines. Whether it’s getting ready for work in the morning, putting your kids to bed in the evening, or setting aside time during the weekends for family time and activities, it all happens as a result of habits that you’ve built over time.

Therefore Habits dictate a big part of your life. Pursuing happiness, money or meaning all have a dependency on your habits. If you find yourself being controlled by bad or negative habits, it’s more likely to hinder you from being productive and reaching those goals.


This also ends up leading to bad use of Time, or poor time management.

You might feel like you haven’t built a stable career yet because you lack proper time management. You find yourself spending a lot of time being busy, yet producing little outcomes.

Or certain habits might be consuming time that you can be using for other more productive tasks.


Perhaps you’re on your way to retirement, and feel like it’s too late to find new meaning to your life. There’s not much time left to embark on a new journey again.

Are You Ready to Live Your Best Life?

The simple fact is, that if you can sharpen these 7 Cornerstone skills, you will realize that finding meaning in life, or reaching the goals and ambitions that you’ve set out for yourself, no matter what stage of life you’re in, is very attainable.

There is no magical method to having life figured out. The skills have always been there since day 1, you just need to know how to use it to the best of your advantage.

And I’m here to show you just how you can do that. Lifehack is all about equipping you with the best and most effective ways to increase your productivity, motivation and focus to achieve true Purpose in life, in as little time as possible.

Embark on a transformational journey with us as we show you how to learn and improve your 7 Cornerstone Skills so that you’ll come out a new person, ready to either pursue your existing goals at a much quicker rate, or to find new goals to pursue without being limited by time, age or responsibilities.

If you’ve been wanting a change, or been stuck in a rut for a while now, here is your chance to get started on pushing towards progress again.

Anyone can transform, anyone can change. Are you ready to live your best life? Click here to start your journey!


Featured photo credit: Caroline Hernandez via

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