5 Reasons Goals Will Level-Up your Sales, Marketing and Company Productivity and Happiness :)

We’re all looking for ways to get added results from our teams, especially as startups or smaller department leaders. Typically our teams are smaller and we have fewer resources, though not any fewer things to accomplish. How do you get your team to run smoothly, efficiently and with passion? You get them all aligned behind a certain objective or goal.

Here I’m going to show you:

  • The 4 ways goal setting produces better results
  • Why this matters even more when you’re a startup
  • Why it makes your team happier

#1. It’s motivating

We all have experienced the thrill of setting an objective for our future and working toward it. While not the best example for follow through and achievement, most of us can attest to the feeling of hope, promise and excitement that the setting of New Year’s Resolutions can bring. Despite what you may think, most people actually enjoy working. Now bear with me here. I didn’t say most people enjoy their jobs, but people enjoy working. What’s critical to that shift in thinking here is the concept of working toward something, feeling like the tedium of the job today is actually going to make a difference down the line.

This is where goal setting and team alignment makes all the difference. Not only do people working toward a certain goal feel a greater sense of reward and accomplishment from their work, but they also work harder, smarter and more effectively. There’s a ton of research surrounding this idea, starting with studies by Edwin A. Locke, who argued and then showed with ample data that as long as a person agrees to take on the goal, has the ability to achieve it, and doesn’t have other goals that undermine or conflict, there is a positive linear relationship between the level of challenge associated with the goal and his or her performance of the tasks to achieve it.

That last point is critical. The tougher the goal, the harder a person will work to achieve it. We like the satisfaction of not just a job well done, but a challenge won. All of us have some spirit of competition within us. I for one am not competitive with colleagues. In my many years in sales, I’ve had several managers try to motivate me by pitting me against a co-worker. FAIL! It’s the most de-motivating tactic to employ for me personally. But damn, I am competitive against myself. Setting ambitious goals and breaking down the work required to achieve them is thoroughly energizing for me.

According to Locke’s research, effective goal setting impacts personal and team outcomes in four ways:

  • Choice: Goals create a rubric for determining which activities or efforts are valuable. (more on that below)
  • Effort: Simply put, in the presence of a goal, people just work harder.
  • Persistence: Without a goal to motivate someone through the tough times or the setbacks, people have a tendency to give up pretty easily. Goals get them through. Goals teach people grit.
  • Cognition: Goals make people self-aware. Just like the choice component above, people take the same critical view of their own behavior and are much more likely to adapt and improve.

Hopefully at some point in our lives, each of you have had the experience of working with or for a truly motivating leader — an inspiring coach or a visionary boss — someone that intuitively knows how to get you to look to the future, to the bigger picture. Those are the leaders that get the most out of their team — the best work, the most dedication, the nearly blind loyalty. The work takes on a different tone. It starts to feel energizing and exciting. Drudgery and tedium just doesn’t come into play.

Why is that?

It’s because of the presence of a goal or a vision that you’re working toward. It’s because there is a destination in sight, not just an unending series of Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. There’s a reason for the work you do and that feels damn good.

Give your team a reason. Give them something that makes it just a little easier to stop hitting snooze and getting out of bed on Monday morning. And remind them often that what they do matters. That work isn’t just an 8 hour shift or a 40 hour work week. It’s something bigger, loftier and a whole lot more meaningful.

#2. It prioritizes scarce resources

Every team, whether you work at Apple or you work at a startup, has scarce resources. At Apple or Google, time might be the issue. At a startup, it’s damn near everything. Conversely, at a startup because there is so much potential resting out on the horizon, every project seems rich with opportunity. It gets increasingly difficult to determine which projects matter and which are just noise.

This challenge is compounded by the autonomous nature of each team member. If you work at a startup, you probably wear a lot of hats and so does everyone else around you. You probably don’t have a well-defined job description and your managers love you because you take initiative to solve problems, delight customers and boost industry awareness without needing to create a proposal and solicit approval from above. It’s what makes you awesome at your job, but it’s also what makes you easily distracted.

There’s no way to stop the onslaught of potential projects and activities from showing up on your desk or that of your team. You need a shortcut for determining the value of each and a justification for being ruthless when something just doesn’t meet the right standards.

Achieving an objective requires prioritization of time, effort and resources.

Your startup needs to prioritize its work and attention, otherwise it will languish in the world of mediocrity. And there’s no such thing as a mediocre unicorn, is there?

Not only will the practice of working toward a goal help focus your team, it will also help onboard new employees. Being the new guy or girl at a startup can be a pretty overwhelming enterprise. There’s a ton to learn and typically the culture is somewhat insular and rich with inside jokes and tales from the battlefield. It can be tough for a new employee to figure out where to direct his or her attention, which projects to prioritize or which skills to learn or hone first.

Imagine if you showed up at a new job and the first day they said, we’ve got this specific, ambitious goal we’re all working towards. Here’s what each team and each person is working on, how can you help?

I’d be fired up, first! Second, I’d have a more functional lens with which to view my training and on boarding process. I am damn sure I’d be a more effective employee, faster. Every single time I’ve been slow to onboard and really start producing at work is because I’ve been unsure of what to do. I know I’m not alone here.

#3. It turns a group of individual contributors into a team

Not only does it inspire an eye toward the future, which is in itself incredibly motivating, but it also bring you closer to your team. You’re all in this together. You’ll suffer the setbacks together. You’ll muddle through the work together. And you’re damn sure, you’re going to reap the rewards and celebrate together.

If you were ever on an athletic team in high school or college — or like me, a theatrical production — I swear it’s similar! — you can understand this concept. When your team is really working together, somehow everything happens more easily. You don’t have to think as hard about each individual decision. There’s much less likely to be issues of ego or personality clashes. You’re working toward something greater than yourself and somehow putting aside the petty stuff becomes a matter of course.

I’m a big believer that any team worth a damn is greater than the sum of its parts. The magical mix of collaboration and inspiration produces a next-level kind of result. When a team is really working as a team and not just a collection of people that work out of the same office, the energy can be truly electric. People are more excited to come into work and they’re more excited to do the work when they’re there.

Ever hear of the concept of flow or being in a flow state? Imagine having a whole team of people there together. That’s what happens when a team really jives, comes together and acts as one, ever evolving, passionate, creative, inspired entity.

It’s a magical thing.

#4. It’s the best way to measure success (or failure)

We live in a data driven world. We’re surrounded by a million options for any choice that we have to make, particularly in the business world. These days we don’t have 3 vendors to evaluate, we have 30. We don’t have 2 options of marketing plans (tv or radio?), we have 20. Figuring out the right amount of this mixed with the perfect quantity of that is incredibly challenging. And exhausting.

Determining the right path for your business is actually harder when you’re a smaller company because you’re a lot more likely to listen to everyone’s input in the decision-making process.

Every business needs a process for evaluating progress and adjusting the strategy and tactics along the way. Smaller, younger businesses almost need it more. As we’ve already discussed, you’ve got scarcer resources, so each decision tends to have a bigger impact on the bottom line and the business as a whole. You need a method for measuring what’s working and what isn’t. And if you don’t define what success is at the outset, how do you know if you’ve reached it?

#5. It’s an awesome reason to celebrate.

Wahooooooo!

Now we get to the fun stuff. As a startup, you’re used to having a million things to do in way toolittle time. You work a ton and so does everyone around you. And because you’re all gluttons for punishment, you kind of love it.

I’ll bet your employees love it a little less though.

You all need to take some time to celebrate your wins. I don’t just mean a high-five after landing a big client. I mean a genuine pause to think about what you’ve accomplished and how hard you worked to get there. Knowing that your work is producing something. Something that you’ve all determined together matters.

Don’t get stuck in the typical startup route of barely acknowledging a big win and then putting your head back down to work on the next. Take a breath. Say thank you to the team that helped you do it. Reflect on the work you do together and the results you produce together. It’s a powerful experience for everyone involved and I promise will help make your team feel happier, more appreciated and more motivated to reach the next goal.

You have an amazing opportunity ahead of you. With a little bit of work, you can get more done with less expense, while making your team happier and more excited to pour their heart, soul, brain and energy into their work.

Happy Goal Setting!

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Originally published at blog.younglionscollective.com.

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