Skip to navigation
5 Min Read

Why Setting Strong Objectives for Managers is a Top Priority This Year

Nicole Klemp

You’d be hard-pressed to find an HR thought leader who doesn’t believe having great mid-level managers is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—indicators of a high-performing team.

If training and developing your organization’s managers isn’t one of your top priorities this year, it probably should be. Consider these stats:

  • 60% of HR leaders say “leader and manager effectiveness” is their #1 priority in 2023, according to Gartner.
  • 65% of managers feel underprepared and struggle to perform in their roles.
  • 56% of employees say that having a good boss is one of the most critical factors for remaining at their company.
  • 64% of managers are “highly confident” in their leadership abilities, while only 37% of employees are impressed with their boss’s management skills.

The data is pretty clear that having good managers is vital to business success. But what do objectives have to do with it? And how do you know what the right objectives for managers are?

John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” From first-time managers to veteran executives, effective leadership requires continuous learning and stretch goals that promote personal and professional growth.

What are objectives for managers (and how do they help)?

A big part of a manager’s job is helping their team and its members achieve their goals. But don’t forget that managers need support and direction too! 

Managers should indeed focus on their team members’ well-being and ensure everyone is doing their part to meet organizational goals. But outside of team-level and company-level objectives, managers should also have clearly defined personal and professional objectives to help them become more effective leaders. 

Manager effectiveness is almost always directly correlated to team success. The managers who get the professional development they need and work on their own leadership goals are also the ones leading high-performing teams. (Performance can be contagious in that way.) 

Types of managerial objectives

The specific personal objectives a manager should have are just that—personal. Just as every individual employee has different strengths and growth areas, so do managers. The key is understanding what a successful manager looks like in your organization and discovering what each manager needs to do to achieve that ideal.

For example, many people get promoted to manager because they were a high performer in their previous role. But while they likely have the job-related competencies to manage the team, they may or may not have sufficient leadership skills (especially if this is their first manager role). Those folks may need to focus on personal development areas such as improving their communication skills, learning how to give constructive feedback, active listening, etc. 

On the flip side, if you have a seasoned manager who is new to the company or a particular function, they may need to set objectives that focus more on industry knowledge or role competency. 

For example, if you have a manager who effectively led your marketing team but will now also be managing the inside sales staff, they may need to learn more about sales and how that team culture differed from what they’re used to. Employees need to know that their manager understands what they do every day and that they can relate to the unique challenges of the role.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

There are many different processes and methodologies out there for setting goals. The method your organization chooses is a matter of preference and what fits your organization best. What matters most is that you have a proven system in place because you don’t want to leave goal-setting up to chance. 

15Five uses and recommends the OKR system for goal setting at all levels of an organization. The Big O—Objectives—represents the goals of the organization, teams, and individuals (including managers). KR—Key Results—provide the metrics to gauge performance toward those goals. 

OKRs help align and motivate teams and individuals to reach personal and professional goals. They describe what an individual (or team or organization) wants to achieve and what success toward that goal looks like. OKRs offer a way to formalize job performance goals for managers and document an action plan to achieve them.

Management training and coaching

Effective managers are able to motivate and enable their direct reports to perform at a high level and reach their full potential. They can have a lasting impact on a team and organization. 

But this doesn’t happen by accident. 

To say someone is a “born leader” is selling them short. Sure, some people are born with certain traits that lend well to leadership, but most great leaders become who they are through personal learning and growth. 

But not all managers are getting the development they need. 

When surveying managers and employees for our 2023 Manager Effectiveness Report, we found that managers are desperate for more training and development—and employees want their managers to get it. (We also found that over 76% of candidates for open manager roles are more likely to accept a position when management training or coaching is offered.)

With a formalized management development training program (and a goal-setting framework like OKRs), managers can establish their objectives and identify the training they need to become better leaders. 

As Kathi Enderes, VP of Research at the Josh Bersin Company, said, “Developing the types of leadership capabilities needed for today’s work world takes more than traditional training. Coaching, practice, and ongoing feedback are required in order to make sustained change, and most companies have found this type of development to be prohibitively expensive. Solutions like 15Five Transform can help companies foster these next-generation leadership capabilities in a scalable and efficient way.” 

Learn more in 15Five’s Manager Effectiveness Report 

We surveyed 1,000 managers and 1,000 employees across the U.S. on productivity tracking, manager effectiveness and training, career growth, and professional development. See what our study uncovered about how employees and managers (really) feel about training, development, and goal setting.

Get the report >