OKRs for team leaders: 5 ways to become more effective

By on March 12, 2019

We have written extensively about how OKRs are beneficial to the company. The methodology helps employees and managers set goals that are SMART i.e. specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely. As the goals are aligned throughout the organization, transparency increases to a great extent. Everyone becomes aware of what their teammates or other coworkers are working on and how their goals are aligned with each other. They may not be directly aligned but certainly help one way or the other.

Today we are going to talk about how OKRs help leaders become more effective in their roles. Rather than outline the benefits directly, we’ll see how OKR implementation can tackle common challenges that leaders typically face:

5 Challenges which leaders can tackle using OKRs

Challenge no. 1 – Lack of transparency in the organization:

Transparency in the workplace plays a big role in maintaining overall employee morale. Various studies suggest that level of transparency in the workplace is directly proportional to the magnitude of trust employees place in the company. The general assumption is that the leaders do not have faith in their employees and hence the lack of transparency.

One of the first steps in OKR implementation, leaders need to make sure Company OKRs are made visible to everyone throughout the company. Only then employees will be able to align their own goals with the company’s goals. By allowing everyone to see the bigger picture, leaders ensure that employees are aware of how their efforts are tied in with the organizational goals.

Challenge no. 2 – Poor communication across the organisation:

Lack of transparency also leads to poor communication throughout the workplace. If individuals are not aware of the different responsibilities that others are handling, there are chances of redundant work being done. Some responsibilities may be completely missed. This is more common in larger companies due to the sheer number of employees. It is the leaders’ responsibility to ensure everyone communicates with each other to accomplish the overall goals.

OKRs help to efficiently communicate the top management’s expectations. The goal here is to bring together all employees to work in one direction. And to work together, employees need to consistently communicate with each other to update their progress.

Challenge no. 3 – Top down approach:

Traditional goal setting processes often followed the top down approach for setting goals. Once the company objectives were decided, managers broke them into smaller goals and assigned them to their team members. Employees had no affinity with the leaders owing to their autocratic approach. It was simply a matter of getting the bare minimum done so as to meet their requirements. Such workplaces often have low engagement levels and are easy to identify.

On the other hand, OKRs balance the top down and bottom up approach. Once the company level goals are decided, every subsequent level in the organization decides its own goals and aligns them with the top goals. If any team is out of alignment and does not serve the overall purpose, they are easily identified by the leaders. Thus, it gets easy for them to make sure everyone is collectively working towards a common objective.

Challenge no. 4 – Lack of ownership:

Coming back to the previous point, as goals are dictated to employees, they are not fully committed to them. Team members may often be caught avoiding critical tasks and try to get others to complete them. This leads to misunderstandings and conflicts among the team. And the end result is that despite being critical, the tasks were ultimately not taken up by anyone.

When each team member sets OKRs, they ‘own’ them. They are accountable for achieving the targets that they themselves have set. Every member is responsible for a part of the team goal and has to fulfil their responsibilities accordingly. Only when everyone collectively meets their goals, does the team accomplishes its own. Thus leaders can inspire employees to become more accountable to their work.

Challenge no. 5 – Unwillingness to collaborate:

In a bid to succeed, employees tend to look after their own interests. They are not willing to collaborate with others as they do not see the value in it. However this can be harmful for both parties as their work may not be mutually exclusive as assumed. If they are not willing to share information then it will affect both their performance to quite an extent.

Leaders can make everyone understand and help them connect the dots on how their goals are intertwined one way or the other. Employees see that to succeed, they need to collaborate properly and help each other as required.

Bonus challenge: Archaic recognition practices:

Traditional goal setting processes called for setting goals for a period of one year at most levels. Thus, when this performance was reviewed at the end of that year, feedback was given at the same time. This is too little too late.

Leaders need to give feedback as and when required. Not when it is too late, as is the case with traditional methods. With the standard practice of checking in at regular intervals, leaders can easily spot which teams or individuals are lagging behind. They can thus immediately point it out and give feedback accordingly.

How do OKRs help leaders in your company? We would love to read your comments.

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