How to Set Goals as a Finance Manager (and Help Your Team Achieve Them)


Not everyone can score goals like Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky, but if your finance team doesn’t meet expectations, the impact is widespread. That’s why it’s so important as a finance manager to set achievable goals that include accountability and recognition. Here are tips for helping your team meet their objectives.

Supportive Autonomy
The term “supportive autonomy” was coined by Linda Hill, co-author of the book Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader. Hill explains that managers need to balance their own involvement, with allowing employees a certain degree of autonomy in the goal setting process. 

For finance managers, this can be like juggling pineapples while walking a tight rope (we went with a challenging fruit image for full effect). 

The key to success lies in setting S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound) goals and connecting them to the bigger organizational picture.

Goals must be clearly and concisely stated. As much as we may want someone who can function well in ambiguity, goals that are imprecise are ineffective in generating motivation. After all, how do you know how close you are to success if the finish line is unclear? 

Break the goal into steps, each of which is measurable, or keep the goal in its entirety. Regardless, attach specific metrics (numerical or financial for example) to the achievement of the goal.

The individual must have the resources necessary to meet their objectives including constraints of time, environment and the skills of fellow team members.

Team members must feel that goals are realistic, and that they have the ability to meet them.

Create accountability by establishing a specific timeline for goal completion. Consider breaking the goal down into parts to make it feel more achievable. Attach timelines for each step of the process.

Other Goal Setting Tips

  • Connect employee goals to the larger organizational picture. Employees who don’t understand the role that they’re playing in achieving company objectives often become disengaged. Linda Hill says, “Achieving goals is often about making trade-offs…[people] need to understand the bigger picture to make those trade-offs when things go wrong.”
  • Set goals collaboratively to increase buy-in. Ask employees to think about the organization’s vision and mission and draft goals connected to their position. Review the goals.
  • Once goals are in place have the employee brainstorm a plan to achieve them. Offer feedback on the plan.
  • Be a sounding board – Develop trust with your team members so that if things go wrong they can approach you. Giving and receiving feedback is a necessary part of achieving goals.
  • Personal goals – Take into account the whole person. Is there a personal goal you can integrate into their job such as developing confidence, or reducing fear of failure?
  • Conduct regular one-on-one’s to ensure that the employee is on track 
  • Debrief – For whatever reason, sometimes goals are not met. Make sure to debrief so that similar mistakes aren’t made again. Ask yourself how you may have contributed to the lack of success.
  • It can be tempting to allow high performers to be completely autonomous in this process, but it’s important to collaboratively set goals and provide supportive autonomy to your top talent as well.

ReadHow to Give Feedback” for specific tips on offering constructive advice that will build team confidence and productivity. 

Key Takeaways
Helping your team achieve their goals can feel like you’re walking a tightrope. But establishing “supportive autonomy” can be incredibly effective in getting your team to deliver. Build goals collaboratively. Make sure that they are specific, measurable and realistic. Create accountability by tying them to a timeline. Connect goals to the larger organizational picture so that employees understand the importance of what they do. Establish regular one-on-one meetings to give and receive feedback and make sure to offer the same level of support to your high performers. 

Your Next Step
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