Achieving Goals: Top 10 Reasons Why Your Team Doesn’t (+ Solutions)

Read this post in:

As a manager, achieving goals is the name of the game. Every quarter is an opportunity to do and achieve more. But hitting the high notes takes work, and getting your team pulling in the same direction can be harder than nailing jelly to a tree. As with anything, it’s easier when you know how. Read on to discover the 10 most common reasons teams fail to accomplish goals – and how to keep your team on track. Ready? Let’s go.

Achieving goals as a team

Achieving Goals: It All Starts With the Manager.

Team listening to a presentation.
Be open about the obstacles your team is up against.

To overcome hurdles and help your team realize their goals, there are 4 things you can do as a manager:

  1. See. Recognize and accept problems.
  2. Want. Decide to do something about them.
  3. Know. Have the skills to eliminate the problems.
  4. Do. Implement solutions together with your team.

In this article, you’ll learn how to take this journey step by step. Discover the 10 most common obstacles to achieving goals as a team – and how to overcome them.

Shortcut to Reaching Your Goals?

Good Documentation Always Helps.

Discover MeisterNote

Obstacle #10: The Goalposts Have Moved.

Scrabble letters spelling "Be the Change".
Adaptability is key to achieving goals.

Everything changes. So much so that several acronyms exist to describe today’s complex work environment.

If your team doesn’t: 

  • Take ever-changing market conditions into account, and
  • Make the necessary goal adjustments

reaching goals will remain a pipe dream.

Solution 10: Help Your Team To Become More Adaptable.

Unpredictable events demand adaptability. A resilient team is better able to handle problems when they arise.

Guidance provided by ISO 22316:2017 outlines how “two-way knowledge and information sharing” can make your team more resilient. But is your team following all the recommended principles? Identify where you’re lagging behind and make improvements.

3 Steps To Withstand Change as a Team:

  • Share principles for resilience. Share the ISO principles with your team in a collaborative note.
  • Survey your team. Identify which principles your team isn’t following.
  • Develop steps for improvement. Prioritize and implement measures for improvement.

Obstacle #9: You Could Be Setting a Bad Example.

Wooden model figurine.
Are you a good role model for your team?

Before you suggest ways your team could improve, reflect on your management style. Are you a good role model? Or do you tend to keep information to yourself?

If you seek information alone, make decisions alone, and present results alone, don’t be surprised if your team works alone, too.

Find out why it’s better to make decisions as a team.

Solution 9: Set a Good Example and Achieve Goals Together.

If you want your team to be motivated Monday through Friday, be prepared to set the tone. If you’re enthusiastic and engaged, your team is more likely to be as well. It’s important that you actively involve your team in achieving goals – don’t try to do everything on your own.

3 Steps to Boosting Your Leadership Skills:

  1. Keep it simple. Before you invest in costly leadership training, visit YouTube.
  2. Watch talks and tutorials. Our first recommendation: Great leadership starts with self-leadership by Lars Sudmann.
  3. Implement 3 tips. Collect your inspiration in a collaborative documentation tool. Identify and implement the 3 ideas you think are most effective.

Obstacle #8: No One Knows What Anyone Else Is Doing.

Blank sheet of paper symbolizing missing information.
Is your team missing the bigger picture?

A lack of clarity is a big roadblock to achieving goals. Ask yourself: does everyone know who is currently working on which task? Does your team have an overview of milestones and achievements?

If you don’t communicate project progress and individual wins to the whole team:

  • You create gaps in project documentation.
  • You miss an opportunity to motivate your team.
  • You unintentionally promote social loafing.

Solution 8: Have Your Team Document Their Accomplishments.

When everyone on the team records their progress centrally and makes it easily accessible:

  • You benefit. As a manager, you can better track your team’s performance and progress. When you spot issues, you can resolve them quickly.
  • Your team benefits. Each team member knows what everyone is working on and can contribute where needed.
  • You and your team benefit again. You can refer to the notes in performance reviews for a fairer, easier process.

3 Steps to Making Team Performance Visible:

  • Choose a central online documentation tool for your team, such as MeisterNote.
  • Share a template your team can use to note their updates and achievements.
  • Each team member should briefly present the above at the next team meeting.

Obstacle #7: Responsibilities Are Unclear.

Frustrated employee looking at laptop screen.
Does your team feel lost when it comes to achieving goals?

You’re working on a project. Who on the team is gathering what information – and from which teams? Who prepares the numbers for the final report? It’s important that everyone on the team knows who is responsible for what. 

If you don’t clearly outline the responsibilities in the team:

  • Your team will be unsure of what they need to do.
  • Team members will lack the responsibility and ownership they need to develop professionally.

If your team doesn’t understand how their work contributes to achieving goals, they won’t see the value in what they’re doing. They will be less engaged and less motivated to “go the extra mile”.

Solution 7: Make Responsibilities Clear.

Do you want to prevent misunderstanding in your team? Be sure to clearly communicate the responsibilities of each individual team member.

3 Steps for Clear Responsibilities in the Team:

  1. Assign roles and responsibilities for each project. You can use a RACI matrix for this.
  2. Note responsibilities centrally. Choose a collaborative documentation tool that is easily accessible to all, such as MeisterNote.
  3. Share the note with your team.

Make sure you have a balanced distribution of responsibilities. This helps to avoid resentment within your team.

Obstacle #6: There Is a Competency Gap.

Team building exercise.
How well do you know your team’s competencies?

Shockingly, only 6% of leaders have a good understanding of their team’s competencies. If you don’t take stock of what skills your team members already have, and what competencies your team needs to succeed in the future:

  • You invest less in training and development.
  • You risk poor employee retention.
  • With a lack of skills or people, you will have a hard time achieving your goals.

Solution 6: Prepare Your Team for the Future.

The workplace of the future needs “T-Shaped People.” In other words, people who have both broad expertise (represented by the vertical bar of the letter T) and the ability to work well together across disciplines (the horizontal bar of the letter T).

Which required skills are missing within your team? If you’re unsure, it’s time to find out.

3 Steps to an Empowered Team:

  1. Conduct a skills gap analysis. List all the skills you have collectively with your team. Next, research what skills your discipline will require in the future. Write down the missing skills in a collaborative note.
  2. Work with your team. Want to know what your team needs? Ask them! Invite them to add their input in the note.
  3. Bring expertise to the team. Don’t have all the skills you need to achieve your current goals? Arrange the required training for your team and get external support until you can handle everything in-house.

Obstacle #5: There Is a Lack of Commitment From Your Team.

Charger symbolizing renewed energy.
No buy-in from your team? Recharge their motivation.

Are you familiar with the five dysfunctions of a team? The model shows you that at the core, your team needs to be motivated and committed to work effectively.

If your team:

  • Cannot resolve conflicts in a healthy way
  • Cannot openly discuss conflicting opinions
  • Does not get regular feedback

your team members will be less engaged – and less accepting of decisions which impact the way they work.

“Hard facts” also have a big impact on team engagement. For example, if your employees’ salary is not (or is no longer) fair, motivation will drop.

Solution 5: Use the Positive Leadership Model.

Want to spur your team on to give their best? Then look to the “Positive Leadership” model. Give your team praise and recognition where it’s due – your team will repay you with their time and effort.

3 Steps That Will Make You a Better Leader:

Following the steps outlined in the PERMA principle will help you to build an invested and engaged team.

  1. PE – Positive Emotion and Engagement. Encourage positive feelings and commitment. Help make your team feel good about coming to work. Give each team member responsibility for tasks that match their strengths.
  2. RM – Relationships and Meaning. Promote sustainable relationships and communicate meaning. Make sure your team supports each other. Outline the value each individual contributes to the team in a shared note.
  3. A – Accomplishments and Achievements. Make achievements visible. Praise your team when they achieve common goals. This will boost your team’s confidence and motivate them to succeed.

Obstacle #4: Your Goals Aren’t Clear.

Person covering someone else's eyes to symbolize not having access to information.
Don’t keep your team in the dark.

Are your goals written down? Are they visible to your entire team? Are they accessible from anywhere, at all times?

If you didn’t answer yes to all three questions, you’ve just identified a problem. Thankfully, there’s a relatively simple solution.

Solution 4: Document Your Team’s Goals and Objectives.

There are two prongs to success: setting a goal and then following through on it.

Your team won’t benefit if only you can see the goals you’re all working towards. When you increase visibility, you encourage your team to work autonomously. An empowered, autonomous team is more likely to be successful – so get documenting!

3 Steps to Making Your Goals Visible:

  1. Write your team goals down in a collaborative note.
  2. Make the note clear. Explain technical terms and link to in-depth sources for more context.
  3. Give every team member access to the note. Send a link to the note via the communication channel you use (e.g. Slack) with a well-worded message to explain the note’s purpose.

Obstacle #3: Your Team Isn’t Collaborating.

Team socializing.
Team building exercises can help you achieve goals more easily.

Search for “team building” and Google will come back with over 1 million results. That’s a good indicator that cohesive teamwork is important. In fact, collaboration can be the difference between failure and success. A study by Hays shows that 65% of projects fail because of poor collaboration between departments

When team members feel like they belong in the team, you benefit twofold:

  • Team members perform better individually.
  • Your team is better positioned to reach goals together.

However, the reality is that many teams are out of sync. A report by Ranstand identifies that 58% of employees surveyed have left jobs, or are considering leaving, because of negative office politics.

Solution 3: Organize Team Building Activities.

When did your team last take part in a team building event? If it’s been a while, carve out some time to help your team connect. Team building activities strengthen communication, motivation, cohesion, performance and trust. How?

  • Your team gets to know each other better.
  • There is less reluctance when it comes to reaching out with questions and feedback.
  • Your team can better understand and influence the team dynamic.

3 Steps to Successful Team Building:

  1. Identify which team building phase your team is currently in. This will help you to figure out what kind of bonding activities will work well. It will also help you to better support your team day-to-day.
  2. Gather ideas for things you want to do together. A scavenger hunt, dinner or a high-ropes course? Share some initial ideas with your team in a collaborative online document. Ask them to comment on their favorite activities.
  3. Decide together. If you have a small team, it probably won’t take long to decide on what you want to do. Larger teams can benefit from using an online survey tool – or even a decision matrix.

Obstacle #2: Your Team Isn’t Communicating.

Speech bubble made of paper.
How well does your team communicate?

Teams that communicate openly and respectfully are 60% more like to achieve more, faster. They are also 80% more likely to report high emotional well-being. Does your team:

  • Know how and where feedback should be given?
  • Feel safe communicating their opinions freely?

For good team communication, the answer must be “yes”.

“One cannot not communicate.” Do you know the other four axioms of communication? They describe the processes that take place during interaction. They also help to explain how misunderstandings occur so you can avoid them.

Solution 2: Create an Open Feedback Culture.

Instantly improve team communication by normalizing feedback. Make it clear that feedback is welcome and valued. However, be sure to establish guidelines for giving and receiving feedback first. These guidelines could include providing concrete examples and avoiding generalizations.

3 Steps for Establishing an Open Feedback Culture:

  1. Choose the right feedback tool: At Meister, we document our project updates – including learnings and areas for improvement – in MeisterNote. Everyone is encouraged to leave comments with questions and feedback.
  2. Schedule regular team meetings: Give your team space to discuss the written points “face-to-face”.
  3. Encourage feedback in your team meetings. Get the conversation flowing. Encourage your team to contribute to discussions and ask difficult questions.

Regularly encourage your team to express thoughts and ideas, even if they are contrary or critical. Make sure everyone feels heard.

Obstacle #1: You Have Unrealistic or Contradictory Goals.

Knots in a rope symbolizing difficulty.
Are you setting realistic goals for your team?

Not everyone who pulls together pulls in the same direction.

Oliver Tietze (*1965), German Aphorist

And now, the most fundamental obstacle to your team’s success: unrealistic or contradictory goals. If the goals you set are unachievable, your team can only fail. The same is true if your goals are contradictory. Don’t expect your team to be successful with:

  • Too few resources. You want to increase sales, but you’ve significantly cut the marketing budget? Something doesn’t add up.
  • Contradictory goals. Are you expecting your team to cut costs but deliver higher quality? You’ve set your team competing goals.

When goals are conflicting, your team won’t pull together or in the same direction. With efforts scattered across the team, you won’t meet any of your goals. 

Solution 1: Re-evaluate Your Goals.

Realizing your goals aren’t achievable? Bring your team together to make adjustments. Your team is 3.6 times more engaged when they are involved in the goal-setting process. 

Teams with high employee engagement achieve:

  • Better and more stable customer relationships.
  • Greater productivity.
  • Over 20 percent higher profitability.

Moving the goalposts might seem counterproductive (mostly because it’s another reason that teams fail to meet goals). However, when you can’t work harder, you have to work smarter. Re-evaluating your goals will help you to allocate resources more effectively, refocus your team’s efforts and reduce stress within your team. This will also have a long term positive effect on your team’s success.

3 Steps to Setting Realistic Goals:

  1. Call a meeting.
  2. Don’t embellish. Discuss the facts openly and encourage your team to do the same.
  3. Get your team’s input on what is realistically achievable. Collect feedback in a collaborative documentation tool and use this to redefine your goals.

Goal Achieved: You’ve Got the Solutions for Success.

Balloons spelling out "Yay".
Followed all the steps? Congratulations!

If you’ve worked through all of the problems above with your team, you’re well equipped to reach your goals.

How do successful teams achieve their goals? Explore our Community and exchange ideas with other managers.

Now, go out there and achieve great things. You’ve got this!

Better Organization. Better Results.

Learn How Documentation Can Help You Reach Your Goals.

Discover MeisterNote


What Are the Top 10 Reasons Teams Fail at Achieving Goals?

  1. You have unrealistic or contradictory goals.
  2. Your team isn’t communicating.
  3. Your team isn’t collaborating.
  4. Your goals aren’t clear.
  5. There is a lack of commitment from your team.
  6. There is a competency gap.
  7. Responsibilities are unclear.
  8. No one knows what anyone else is doing.
  9. You could be setting a bad example.
  10. The goalposts have moved.

Achieving Goals: What Are the Top 10 Solutions?

  1. Re-evaluate your goals.
  2. Create an open feedback culture.
  3. Organize team building activities.
  4. Document your team’s goals and objectives.
  5. Use the positive leadership model.
  6. Prepare your team for the future.
  7. Make responsibilities clear.
  8. Have your team document their accomplishments.
  9. Set a good example and achieve goals together.
  10. Help your team to become more adaptable.

What Is the Main Challenge to Achieving Goals That Teams Face?

Many managers believe the main reason that projects fail and goals aren’t met is due to planning. However, if the goals you expect from your team are unrealistic, you’re setting your team up for failure.