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How Startup Founders Should Be Setting Long-Term Goals

How Startup Founders Should Be Setting Long-Term Goals
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Q: Any recommendations on how to improve long-term skills and goal setting?
-- Tess

A: If you’re thinking about how to improve long-term skills and goal setting, the answer truly varies based on your stage of career, experience and professional environment. Whether you’re at a startup, a large company or a venture capital firm, and whether you're a C-level executive, middle manager or entry-level employee, there are different lessons to learn and apply. It's also worth noting that over time, the goals you're setting will change, and your methods of reaching those goals will need to change as well.

Related: Setting Goals: 3 Steps to Igniting Workplace Engagement

In general, on goal setting, understand what goal matters the most to your company that you personally can affect and focus relentlessly on impacting it -- that's usually a good place to start.

Given that I'm in startup mode again with Pro.com, I'll specifically address the unique experience of an early-stage startup and how the lessons can be applicable to anyone, but especially if you’re an entrepreneur who is just starting a new business.

Focus on key quarterly goals

When it comes to goal setting at a pre-growth startup, I have had a lot of success using a few quarterly goals and focusing the team on no more than one to two major initiatives and four to eight smaller experiments throughout the quarter. This way, you can keep a small team focused on major projects, while allowing them to work creatively on minor projects that may develop into something more. Timing is never perfect but by evaluating the team’s progress every 90 days, you should be able to assess what's working and what's not working.

Related: 8 Steps to Crushing Ridiculous Goals

Review goals consistently and decide where to spend your time

Then it's just a matter of being ruthless about kicking to the curb those efforts that did not work and setting the next quarterly goals based on initiatives that did work. Personally, as a founder and CEO, I find it useful to block time in my calendar at least once each day for reviewing the quarterly goals and deciding where I should spend extra time that week to help the team. I find that if I’m thinking about and working on these goals every day myself as a leader, the mentality of driving to meet these goals trickles down to my team.

Seek trusted counsel

As for improving long-term skills, I’ve found that at nearly every stage of my career it’s been helpful to use a mirror. By that I mean seeking out trusted counsel and using the advice you receive to think critically about yourself and your leadership. Specifically, mentors and/or an executive coach can help tremendously in being that mirror as long as you can listen well and are committed to incorporating feedback from others. This is often the hardest part of seeking advice: You need to be open and ready to accept the feedback and act on it. There are also certain situations in which you need to go back to your most personal mirrors: those who are closest to you and/or have a vested interest in your success. Speaking with these people can often help you assess whether "long-term skills improvement" means education, mentorship or a career change, among other actions.

Related: Achieved Your Goal? Reach for More.