Five tips for building five key leadership skills – Part 4: Setting goals

Explore some quick suggestions to add goal-setting development opportunities to youth development activities.


Any project within youth development programs can benefit from adding layers of leadership skills. These skills include decision-making, responsible citizenship, public speaking, setting goals and problem-solving. Infusing these skills will add dimension to any project area.

Here are a few ways volunteers can add goal-setting skills to the experiences of their participants:

  • Help youth break down larger project goals into smaller pieces. Have them record their goals in a notebook and document their progress. Remind youth it’s OK to revise goals throughout the year.
  • Help youth be specific as they set goals. They are much more likely to achieve a goal if it is clear, as in, “Raise at least $200 at the club fundraiser,” as opposed to, “Raise some money.”
  • Involve youth in annual planning for the program year. Help them consider group goals as well as individual project goals, and have them brainstorm a list of activities (or type of activity) that would help them achieve those goals. Work with the club leadership to include those goals on meeting agendas so the group can track their progress.
  • Involve youth in planning community service projects. Let the group vision the overall goal of the project, and then let youth volunteer for tasks so that everyone is involved. Participants will have more buy-in if they help create the group goals, and then will get more out of the experience than if a leader just gives them a job.
  • Include goal-setting as part of routine group discussions. Help youth to understand that successful adults make, revise and evaluate goals often.

The newly revised Teen Leadership Project Guide is an excellent additional resource to help young people think of leadership as a project, as well as help them plan for how to improve and increase their skills. 

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program helps to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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