The power of stretch goals: Motivating your team to achieve more

The power of stretch goals: Motivating your team to achieve more

Stretch goals are ambitious objectives that challenge individuals and teams to push beyond their comfort zones and achieve more than they thought was possible. While a goal can motivate and lead to significant performance improvements, they can also be daunting and risky if not approached correctly. In this blog, we will explore the concept of a stretch goal and discuss the benefits, challenges, and strategies for setting them effectively in a team or organization.

We will also provide examples of stretch goals in different contexts and offer tips for creating and achieving stretch goals. Whether you are a manager looking to motivate your team or an individual looking to challenge yourself, this blog will provide valuable insights and practical advice on setting and achieving stretch goals effectively. So let’s explore the new way of goal-setting.

What are stretch goals?

Stretch goals are additional goals or objectives set beyond the initial or primary goal of a project or task. These goals are typically more ambitious and challenging than the original and are designed to push individuals or teams to exceed their expected performance levels. They are often used as a motivational tool to encourage individuals or teams to aim higher and achieve more than they initially thought possible. They can help to build momentum, boost morale, and create a sense of excitement and urgency around a project or initiative.

They are commonly used in strategic planning, performance management, and project management. In addition, they are often used to drive innovation, improve productivity, and encourage employees to develop new skills and capabilities. Stretch goal should be realistic and achievable, even if they are more challenging than the primary goal. They should also be aligned with the team’s or project’s overall mission and vision.

Benefits of stretch goals

  • Increased motivation and engagement: It can motivate individuals and teams to aim higher and push beyond their comfort zones. This can lead to increased engagement, greater ownership, and commitment to the project or task.
  • Improved performance and productivity: Setting stretch goal can improve performance and productivity, as individuals and teams are challenged to work harder, think creatively, and find new solutions to problems.
  • Encourages innovation and creativity: It often require managers and team members to think outside the box and develop innovative solutions. This can lead to breakthroughs and new ideas that might not have been discovered otherwise.
  • Builds resilience and adaptability: They can help managers and teams develop resilience and adaptability as they learn to overcome obstacles and challenges in pursuit of their goals.
  • Promotes continuous learning and development: Setting stretch goals can encourage individuals and teams to continuously learn and develop new skills and knowledge to achieve their goals.
  • Increases satisfaction and fulfillment: Achieving stretch goals can provide a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and fulfillment, which can boost morale and encourage individuals and teams to set and achieve even higher goals in the future.

Challenges of stretch goals

  • Increased stress and burnout: Pursuing stretch goals can be demanding and require individuals and teams to work harder and longer hours, leading to increased stress and burnout.
  • Risk of failure: Stretch goal are, by definition, more challenging and ambitious than regular goals, which means there is a higher risk of failure. If not managed properly, this can lead to disappointment, demotivation, and even a sense of hopelessness.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Setting overly ambitious goals can create unrealistic expectations, which can lead to frustration and disappointment if the goals are not achieved.
  • Reduced focus on the primary goal: When stretch goals are set, there is a risk that managers and teams may lose focus on the primary goal or objective of the project.
  • Overlooking potential obstacles: When setting stretch goal, it is essential to consider potential obstacles and challenges that may arise. Failing to do so can lead to unexpected setbacks and delays.

How to set stretch goals?

Setting stretch goals can be an effective way to drive performance and innovation. Here are some key steps to follow:

  • Identify your primary goal: Before setting stretch goals, it’s important to identify your objective. This will help ensure that your stretch goals are aligned with the team’s or project’s overall mission and vision.
  • Define your stretch goals: Once you have identified your primary goal, define your stretch goals. These should be more ambitious and challenging than your primary goal but still achievable. Make sure that your stretch goal is specific, measurable, and time-bound.
  • Set metrics for success: Determine how you will measure progress towards your stretch goal. This may involve setting specific metrics, such as sales targets or customer satisfaction ratings.
  • Identify potential obstacles: Consider obstacles and challenges when pursuing your stretch goals. This will help you anticipate potential risks and develop strategies to overcome them.
  • Communicate your goals: Communicate your stretch goal clearly to your team members. This will help ensure everyone is aligned and working towards the same objectives.
  • Resources and support: Provide the necessary resources and support to help your team achieve the stretch goal. This may include training, additional staff, or new technologies.
  • Monitor progress and adjust as necessary: Monitor progress towards your goals and adjust them as necessary. This will help ensure they remain relevant and aligned with the mission and vision.

What are some questions to ask before setting stretch goals?

Before setting stretch goal, ask yourself some open-ended questions to ensure your goals align with your values, priorities, and overall mission. Here are some examples of open-ended questions you can ask yourself:

  • What do I want to achieve? Why is this important to me?
  • What are my core values, and how do they relate to my goals?
  • What are the potential benefits and risks of pursuing these goals?
  • What are the obstacles or challenges that may arise when pursuing these goals?
  • How do my goals align with my team’s or project’s larger vision or mission?
  • What resources, skills, or support do I need to achieve these goals?
  • How will I measure progress toward these goals and evaluate success?
  • What are the potential unintended consequences of pursuing these goals?
  • How will achieving these goals impact my team and other colleagues?
  • What is my plan for adjusting these goals if necessary?

3 examples of stretch goals for managers

  • Increase team productivity: A manager can set a stretch goal to increase their team’s productivity by a certain percentage within a specific timeframe. This could involve implementing new processes, technologies, or training programs to help employees work more efficiently and effectively.
  • Improve customer satisfaction: A manager can set a stretch goal to improve customer satisfaction ratings by some percentage within a specific time framework. This could involve implementing new customer service initiatives, improving product quality, or increasing responsiveness to customer needs.
  • Reduce costs: A manager can set a stretch goal to reduce costs  within a specific timeframe. This could involve implementing new cost-saving measures, streamlining processes, or reducing waste and inefficiencies.

7 Tips for creating stretch goals

  • Determine if stretch goals are right for your team: Stretch goals can be effective but may only be appropriate for some teams or situations. Consider the context, team dynamics, and individual personalities to determine if stretch goals will be motivational or overwhelming.
  • Choose the right moment: Timing is crucial when setting stretch goal. Choose a time when team members are motivated, energized, and willing to take on a challenge. Avoid setting stretch goals during times of stress or uncertainty.
  • Be realistic: While stretch goal is meant to be challenging, they should still be achievable. Make sure the goals are realistic and based on data, past performance, and available resources.
  • Support your team members: Setting stretch goal can be difficult. Provide support, encouragement, and resources to help them achieve their goals. Consider offering training, coaching, or mentoring to help team members build their skills and confidence to succeed.
  • Consider your team’s goals: Stretch goal should align with the broader goals and mission of the team. Ensure the goals are relevant and meaningful to team members and tied to the team’s vision and values.
  • Make SMART goals and track your progress: Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that are tracked and evaluated regularly. This will help keep team members focused, motivated, and accountable.
  • Visualize the outcome: Help team members see the potential benefits and rewards of achieving the stretch goal. Create a clear and compelling vision of success and how it will benefit the team and the organization. This will help motivate team members and keep them focused on the end goal.


Stretch goals can be a powerful tool for driving performance and innovation in teams. By setting ambitious yet achievable goals, individuals and teams can push beyond their limits and achieve more than they thought was possible. However, setting and achieving these goals is challenging and requires careful planning, support, and perseverance. In this blog, we have discussed the benefits and challenges of stretch goal and strategies, and tips for setting effective stretch goal. We have also provided stretch goal examples in different contexts to illustrate how they can be used to drive results.

As a manager looking to motivate your team or an individual looking to challenge yourself, this blog has provided valuable insights and practical advice on how to set and achieve the stretch goal. Remember, with the right mindset, preparation, and support. Stretch goal can help you reach new heights and achieve your full potential.

Frequently asked questions

What’s another word for stretch goal?
Another word for stretch goal could be “stretch target” or “ambitious goal.”
What is a goal vs stretch goal?
A goal is an objective that an individual or an organization aims to achieve within a specific timeframe, usually with a clear set of parameters and expectations. It represents the desired outcome sought through a specific action or set of actions.
On the other hand, a stretch goal is an ambitious target set beyond what is considered a realistic or achievable goal. Stretch goals aim to push individuals to work harder and surpass their usual limits. They can be considered a challenge or an opportunity to strive for excellence and achieve exceptional results.
Are stretch goals achievable?
Whether stretch goals are achievable depends on the specific circumstances and context. In some cases, stretch goals can inspire individuals to achieve breakthrough results; in others, they can create undue stress or unrealistic expectations.
What are the two types of stretch goals?
There are two types of goals: individual stretch goals and organizational stretch goals. Individual stretch goals refer to personal targets that individuals set for themselves beyond what is expected. On the other hand, organizational stretch goals refer to ambitious targets set by an organization that goes beyond what is considered a realistic or achievable goal. Both types of stretch goals can be used to motivate and inspire individuals or organizations to achieve exceptional results.

Are your goals working for you?

Find out now with a free goal-setting assessment from Risely for team managers.

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