Goals are important, but they can also be detrimental to your business if you aren’t careful with them. As with any venture, you want to set yourself up for success when it comes to annual business goals.
Successful goal-setting is all about finding a sweet spot of reachability where you are challenged but not overwhelmed. Overly ambitious goals make failure not only likely, but also excusable. You don’t want to limit your company’s progress with inadequate goals, either. Here’s how business owners and CEOs can set perfectly balanced goals that will propel their company into success.
Start broad and narrow down
Your annual goals should be based on a larger picture of where you want your business to be in five years. A clearly articulated big picture of your company’s future is integral to effective goal-setting.
Once you’ve identified your long-term goals, it’s much easier to break those goals down into short-term objectives: the yearly, monthly, weekly and even daily tasks that will help you move toward the achievement you’ve envisioned. Consistent calendar alerts can be very useful. For example, if one of your goals is to gain followers for the company’s social media accounts, a reasonable objective might be 1,000 more followers by March 1. To help you reach this objective, you might instruct your social media specialist to set aside some weekly time for organizing the content calendar and preparing a post schedule.
Setting smaller objectives within the frame of your larger goal(s) will offer more opportunities to celebrate the small successes. This kind of encouragement will keep the company invested in the goal and boost morale, which will fuel more energy toward the next objective.
Another effective strategy for making your business goals more realistic and manageable is to separate them into categories such as financial, growth, company culture, brand, etc. For example, an annual goal in the company culture category might be to build an entirely remote workforce. To achieve that, you might set a monthly objective to hold interviews for your first remote hire by the end of February.
Talk to your team
Whenever possible, it’s important to include your team members in goal setting. Employees will be an integral part of your business achieving its goals, so it’s sensible to consider their input while shaping objectives. Your staff can also keep you grounded: they might have more familiarity with the day-to-day operations that could act as obstacles. Especially if your company has multiple departments, the communal goal-setting process will help you identify how the goals overlap and possibly interfere with one another.
Not only will staff participation provide for a more informed process, it will also increase the likelihood that your team feels invested and committed to the company’s progress, and therefore more likely to participate in smaller-scale, goal-related objectives throughout the year.
Create a system of accountability
Goals are nothing without accountability. This often comes in the form of a personal check-in, so this is another excellent reason to bring your team on as part of the goal-setting process. Decide tangible ways in which each team member or department will contribute, and then set appointments to report back to each other on exactly how that’s been done. Your group should have milestone meetings scheduled throughout the year in which they meet specifically to discuss goals.
This not only allows you to provide guidance and encouragement, but also gives you an opportunity to rearrange, if necessary. For example, say you’ve allotted each employee with a specific sales objective as part of an overall increase in company sales. If your team somehow changes—i.e., you gain or lose a staff member—then you’ll need to redistribute the objectives in order to meet your goal.
Trim your schedule
One of the most important things about properly planned goals is that they allow you to identify wasted time. You can look at your schedule—both the daily layout of how you spend your time and your calendar year—and see how much time is dedicated to activities that don’t align with your goals. Trim these activities down as much as possible.
While there will always be “necessary evils”—activities that don’t contribute directly to achieving your goals, but are integral to company operation—it’s important you keep these tasks to a minimum. As a business owner, you should dedicate most of your time to focusing on your company’s overall direction and less on day-to-day operations. Once you’ve identified clear goals, overhaul your calendar so that your time is spent more effectively.
Allow for goal evolution
Things change. People change. Goals can change, too.
One of the quickest ways to ensure failure is to have a tunnel-vision perspective on your company’s annual goals: to think that unless you meet that goal, verbatim, exactly as you wrote it 12 months before, you have failed. This kind of static thinking is ineffective and damaging to company morale, progress and innovation.
As the leader, you need to create room for reconsidering a goal, changing your strategy or even scrapping it all together. This isn’t weakness or failure, it’s efficiency. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t a useful exercise to try. Sometimes a failed goal can teach you more than one you’ve achieved.
When your company works as one to set goals that are broken down, categorized and supported by a goal-conscious schedule and a system of accountability, you will find yourself celebrating your successes at the end of the year rather than mourning your failures.