Stretch Goals: Definition, Benefits, Tips and Examples

Updated June 24, 2022

Stretch goals are those that prompt a company to achieve results beyond its normal accomplishments. Companies can make stretch goals to fulfill their mission, improve their performance and increase their profit. If you're a team leader, consider determining whether a stretch goal is right for your project. In this article, we discuss what a stretch goal is, why it's important, how to make one and what examples of one could look like.

What are stretch goals?

Stretch goals are objectives that encourage a company to complete a challenging task. They are ambitious in that they require an extraordinary amount of effort and dedication from a team, and they may "stretch" or expand a company's current capacities. While some stretch goals are unrealistic, their purpose is to prompt employees to aspire to high levels of success. Meeting a stretch goal can enable a team to achieve results beyond their initial goals and grow their company. Stretch goals can also encourage enthusiasm, motivation, productivity and innovation.

In some situations, a stretch goal is an optional extra goal a company can work toward if they exceed their original goal. This is a common technique in crowdfunding, where if a team raises a desired amount of money, they can ask for further contributions to support a specific purpose. For example, if an organization meets a primary aim of raising $10,000 for hurricane relief, they can create a new stretch goal of raising $1,500 more to provide even more food to families in need. A successful campaign may have more than one stretch goal throughout the fundraising process.

Related: How To Be Successful: The Ultimate Guide

Benefits of stretch goals

Stretch goals can help a company trigger creativity and improve performance. Here are some benefits of making these kinds of goals:

  • Promote productivity: An ambitious goal can inspire team members to work more efficiently in order to reach it. It can also help employees to know which tasks they should complete every day.

  • Encourage motivation: Some employees may feel more motivated to overcome a challenging goal than to meet an easy one. Stretch goals can appeal to the competitiveness of employees and their drive to win.

  • Foster enthusiasm: Stretch goals can make a work environment more fast-paced and busy, which can lead to greater enthusiasm about getting work done. In addition, achieving an ambitious goal can increase the confidence of team members, proving that they can do amazing things.

  • Remind employees of a business's mission: Stretch goals can push employees to better fulfill a company's mission. They may help employees more fully understand how their jobs contribute to a greater cause.

  • Generate innovation: In order to "stretch" abilities and reach a challenging goal, team members may figure out innovative strategies to improve processes and operations. They might come up with ideas that they wouldn't have thought of without a stretch goal.

  • Gain funding: If a crowdfunding organization's team is creating a stretch goal, they may have the opportunity to gain more funding for their project. This can mean expanding their project to be bigger and better, which can then benefit their contributors and earn them more financial success.

Related: How To Be More Creative: Why It's Important and Steps To Boost Creativity

7 Tips for creating stretch goals

A company may benefit from creating stretch goals to improve its operations. Here are seven tips for considering and creating stretch goals:

1. Determine if stretch goals are right for your team

Before initiating the stretch goal process, it's important that you decide if it's right for your team's capabilities and desires. Some people want to work toward tasks that seem impossible, while others want to work toward smaller, more realistic aims. Consider having a group discussion with your team to find out their preferences and the ways they like to stay motivated. You can also conduct research into how other teams have implemented the stretch goal technique and how it has worked out for them.

If your team is already struggling with completing their tasks, you might want to try a technique other than stretch goals, such as proximal goals. Proximal goals are minor, achievable goals that can improve team collaboration and morale. Proximal goals emphasize gradual progress, while stretch goals can be more fast-paced and challenging. Choose a goal strategy that is logical for your organization and puts your employees in a position to succeed.

Related: A Guide To Developing High-Performing Teams

2. Choose the right moment

Timing can be important when creating stretch goals. One of the best moments to create a stretch goal is when a team is experiencing positive momentum and they've completed a series of successful projects. Since at this moment employees most likely feel energetic and confident, it might be a perfect time for them to channel their efforts into overcoming a challenge.

3. Be realistic

Even though the purpose of stretch goals is to be ambitious, it's still important for a team leader to be realistic when creating them. First, you should build a reasonable goal for a team project. Then, you can create a stretch goal based on that. Employees may perform better if the stretch goal is only a little more challenging than usual, instead of a completely impossible feat. You may benefit from considering past performances on projects to gauge the abilities of your team and set realistic goals.

As a team leader, you may be responsible for making sure a team can get a project done. You can do this by checking how many resources you have, including how many employees can work on a project team. Make sure that your organization is at least close to the amount of time, money, talent and equipment needed to reach a stretch goal. It's important to be flexible and adjust a stretch goal as you learn more information throughout a project.

Read more: How To Set Realistic Goals

4. Support your team members

If you want to create an effective stretch goal, it's important to support your team members and ensure they feel confident and capable to do their job. If a stretch goal is too unrealistic, it can put extra pressure on employees, leading to stress and attrition. However, by making sure employees are ready for a challenge before you make a stretch goal, you can help support their mental and physical health.

Make sure they're working a regular amount of hours so they can get enough sleep and rest to perform their tasks correctly. You can also implement positive reinforcements and rewards for smaller tasks they complete daily. Rewarding minor jobs can help employees maintain motivation and feel successful. This can then encourage them to confront new challenges with courage.

5. Consider your organization's goals

Align your stretch goal with your company's organizational and strategic goals to make sure it provides value for your company. This can also help employees stay motivated by understanding that the purpose of their work toward a goal is to fulfill a company's mission. While a stretch goal should be specific, it should also help a company work toward a broader, important objective.

Related: Why Is a Company Mission Statement Important?

6. Make SMART goals and track your progress

When creating your stretch goals, consider making sure they follow the SMART process. This acronym stands for the following concepts:

  • Specific: Ensure your goal is narrow and has a clear focus.

  • Measurable: Ensure you can track your goal using metrics.

  • Attainable: Ensure your goal makes logical use of your team's abilities and resources.

  • Relevant: Ensure your goal is relevant to your company's values, long-term objectives and stakeholders.

  • Time-based: Ensure your goal has specific deadlines.

Adhering to the SMART process can help your stretch goal become a series of steps or plan of action to make an intangible idea into reality. It can also help segment the challenge of a stretch goal into smaller, easier steps.

7. Visualize the outcome

Since stretch goals can be difficult, it's helpful to visualize the outcome in order to motivate a team. One way to do this is by creating a giant calendar in a communal office space or digital platform that expresses the progress a team has made toward a goal. This can help a team consider how and when they plan on achieving a stretch goal.

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Examples of stretch goals

While stretch goals are often for businesses, they can be great tools for personal growth as well. Here are some examples of stretch goals:

Example 1

Jenny's bagel shop is so popular that she's considering opening a second location in a city nearby. While she knows she could probably open one eventually, she wants to motivate herself and her team to do it now. She sets a stretch goal of hosting a grand opening of her new restaurant in two years. She creates a calendar and posts it on the wall of the office to track the steps her and her team of managers are making to reach the goal.

Example 2

A nonprofit organization that supports homeless youth by giving them shelter wants to raise money to build a new foster care home. The project manager decides that since they need to raise a huge amount of money in a short period of time, they are going to make a stretch goal to encourage enthusiasm within their team. They make a stretch goal to apply for 100 grants and execute 50 fundraising campaigns in the next year. Since their organization is large and well-known, the project manager feels that this goal is realistic for the resources they have.

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