GSD Like the Headspace Team with These 4 Steps

Iris Kuo Writer, journalist, and CEO of LedBetter 
GSD Like the Headspace Team with These 4 Steps

“Not knowing or understanding company goals can seriously inhibit productivity,” says Tom Freeman, learning and development manager at Headspace. “Gym memberships, free lunches, or perks won’t fix this.”

Headspace is a meditation app that’s been downloaded over 25 million times. To reach that milestone, the team developed a unique goal-setting system that has helped them get into serious flying formation.

We chatted with Tom to hear how they set meaningful business goals—and how your small business can use the same approach to dial up your team’s productivity.

Step 1: Go back to the drawing board.

At Headspace, the team kicks off their goal-setting process by drawing a tree.

The tree visual is a helpful way to think about how connected everyone is at the company. Each part relies on the others to stay alive. The top organizational goals form the “trunk” of the tree, and smaller, more granular ones branch out from the foundation.

The aim? To help employees see how their specific roles and projects bring company goals to life. The Headspace team knows that specific, tangible goals are directly linked to higher performance, which is why they run through the exercise.

headspace specific goals

To create your own version of the goals tree, pick three to five goals that matter to your company’s success. For instance, they might be to:

  • Attract more customers.
  • Increase sales.
  • Improve a service or product.
  • Enhance the customer experience.

For each goal, use an active verb and attach a number to measure it.

If you own a gym, “increase membership by 10 percent” is better than, “increase membership.” Or if you own a dental practice, say “make filling out paperwork 2x faster” instead of “improve the healthcare experience.”

Step 2: Smash your goals open.

Now, get specific about how the goal will be realized by each team—or if you don’t have teams, each person. Start with the ending and work backwards.

Back to that gym example. What does “increase membership by 10 percent” translate to for various employees? It may mean that your front desk crew needs better training on membership sales, or that you need to prioritize hiring so you can have a larger roster of personal trainers. List out the specific action items that ladder up to the larger goal.

Now, pick an owner for each goal. This person will be in charge of keeping people on track. Then, assign other folks to the specific action items that feed into the bigger goal. (This can include the goal owner.)

Here is where collaboration tools come in handy. Experiment with the following products to keep everything running smoothly:

  • Airtable: A dynamic spreadsheet that helps teams collaborate better.
  • Asana: A task management tool that keeps projects on track.
  • Trello: A collaboration tool that uses Kanban boards to organize projects.
  • Goalscape: A visual tool that helps prioritize and track goals.
  • Bullet journaling: A hybrid planner and diary system to help you organize all your to-dos.

Step 3: Help your employees help themselves.

Work with your team to ensure that their individual tasks are tethered to:

  • Your company goals
  • Their personal career paths

Let’s say you want to increase sales at your deli. To do that, you and your team have decided every cashier should try to upsell a drink and chips to three more customers per shift. If one of your employees is interested in learning more about restaurant management, roll their desire into that same goal.

Training your employee can help them achieve the team goal way faster—while also helping them progress in their career.  

Why are personal goals important, too? Because learning opportunities are key to retaining your team. In fact, millennials say career growth is actually more important to them than income.

Step 4: Encourage your team to overshare.

Oversharing isn’t always a bad thing.

Researchers found that those who shared their progress with a friend were more likely to accomplish their goals than those who didn’t. People are also 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals simply by putting them into writing.

So, share away.

Once you crystallize your company, team, and individual goals, have your goal owners send frequent progress updates; they can do this through one of the tools above, or even through a quick email or Slack message.

Within the update, encourage the goal owner to explain where they need help or have the time to lend a hand. A collaborative approach can build a sense of teamwork while helping more people knock to-dos off their lists.

You don’t have to master a fancy framework to set meaningful goals—you just need to cut away the noise of ambiguity. And by following Tom’s advice, you can help your employees get more done and achieve that same level of clarity.

“If an organization isn’t clear on why it exists, then that can cause stress and anxiety,” says Tom. “Your leaders and employees must know what the finish line looks like.”

Iris Kuo Iris Kuo is a writer in San Francisco focusing on entrepreneurship, data, and diversity. She co-founded the diversity index LedBetter and is a proud alum of The University of Texas at Dallas and Columbia University.
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