If your workplace lacks momentum, or if you regularly struggle to focus on the work at hand instead of getting tied up in tangents and side projects, it’s time for you put some time aside for thinking about goals. Spending a considerable amount of time thinking about the things you want to accomplish as an individual and a company may seem counter-productive. You imagine all the other things you could be doing with that time that would actually create progress, and so you leave the goal-setting for later. Too many businesses fall into this trap.
What those businesses are missing is the value and the effect these goals can have on the work you do. The goals themselves and the process of articulating them can motivate, encourage focus and channel the energy of your team in the right direction. You need goals to help you think through what’s most important and focus your energy on getting there, and your workforce needs goals to know what their work is for.
Articulating Your Mission
Long-term goals are essential for every business. You need a vision of the future, of what you want your business to be. Taking the time necessary to think through the fundamental long-term mission of your company is healthy and important for knowing what the work is for and what you’re trying to build. With a mission plan, I and my employees can be more interested and engaged in each simple short-term project because we see the larger structure it’s helping to create. With a clear vision of the future, you can plan for what your company is going to be instead of planning just for the moment. This helps you avoid cutting corners and optimizing for the future so you’ll be prepared for growth.
By articulating a vision for the future of the company, you’re using your position as a leader to give your employees something to work for and feel like they’re a part of. That doesn’t mean, however, that this responsibility is up to you alone. “When you’re framing the mission of your company, you’re inviting the rest of your team into that mission with you,” says Jason Chalik, founder partner of Chalik and Chalik. “It’s worth listening to your team and trying to get a sense of their values so you can articulate a vision that really includes them.” Drafting a mission statement or planning long-term goals as a team gives your company a chance to come together as a community and build your capacity for effective collaboration.
Your aim in setting long-term goals for your company should be that your team can own those goals and make them their own. The more people feel invested in the greater narrative and growth of the company, the more drive and focus they’ll have in pushing the company forward in that direction. But if you never set aside the time to think about and put together these goals, your company may find itself directionless. No amount of determination is enough to move your company forward if you’re not quite sure where you’re trying to go.
Claiming the Small Victories
Almost as important as the long-term goals that give your team a vision are the short-term goals that give you energy and momentum. It’s easy to get discouraged or lose sight of a distant or vague plan, but achievable and measurable goals in the short-term give you and your team milestones to fight for and celebrate. The chance to celebrate and receive positive feedback is a strong reinforcement that helps propel productivity. These goals motivate you to hone your focus and build momentum with regular achievements.
It’s also important that these goals be flexible and adjustable so they don’t distract from the bigger picture. Circumstances change and certain goals can become irrelevant or even unachievable. As a leader, you need to serve as an example of how to deal with failure for your team, as you can’t let missed goals like these drag you down and ruin the momentum you’d built up. Goals help motivate, but it’s really more about the system of habits and patterns that you’re building by setting these successive goals and trying to reach them. You set short-term goals to help you build and intentionally organize your business for the future.
Short-term goals are especially important in the independence it allows for your employees. By setting a goal and handing it off to an employee, or even letting them set their own milestones, you’re empowering them to tackle that problem and create a solution on their own. They’re in charge of that goal, and now you can step back and let them get to work. That’s how a leader works.