Whether building a new business or embarking on a new leadership role, the pressure you are under is immense. Not only do you have so much to do (in so little time), but expectations are high – both from yourself and those around you.
You know that you need to set yourself goals in order to track your progress, maintain your motivation and keep yourself accountable, but in doing so can run the risk of setting yourself up to fail. If your goals are so big that they crush you under the weight of unrealistic expectation, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having a goal in the first place?
As with most things in life, it turns out that there is a trick to this. Not all goals are created equal: the secret lies in recognizing the difference between a goal that will motivate you versus one that will defeat you.
In the last few months I have been in this exact space – continuously agonizing over whether I have done and achieved enough, and inevitably concluding that no, I haven’t.
I had been so determined to set myself goals and track my progress (because if you don’t, it’s a disaster in the making) that I went to the other extreme, and found that my goals weren’t helping my progress at all.
Any of you who are out there establishing a business or tackling a new role (or have done so in the past) know that this can be an emotional roller coaster.
Setting goals is so important, but setting the wrong goals can lead to demotivation and stalled progress.
Given that this is the opposite of what goal-setting is supposed to achieve, it led me to think long and hard about how much pressure to succeed is too much - and how to have right sized goals that actually achieve their purpose of moving you forward.
My real life example is that I am currently living the pressure, thrills and rollercoaster of launching a new business. As I berated myself yet again for a ‘failed’ deadline, I asked myself:
“In terms of measuring results for a new business, when does the clock start ticking?”
Is it from the day you:
· Have that first idea?
• Write your first blog?
• Develop your logo?
• Share your vision with someone else?
• Earn your first dollar?
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I was beginning to understand the importance of having different types of goals for different points in time.
In my case, my expectation of generating $X in revenue by the end of the first 5 months – when I was still without a website – was simply unachievable. My perceived ‘lack of progress’ was not because I hadn’t been working hard – but because I had set the wrong goal.
My breakthrough moment came when I lamented my failings to a girlfriend of mine, who is a fellow business owner and successful entrepreneur. With raised eyebrows, and a slightly bemused expression, she just looked at me and pointed out that my business was still in its foundational stages.
Like many things, it is a lot harder to get perspective when it is you who is doing the doing! The minute she said that to me, I was able to connect the dots: goals are critical, yes. But you need goals that are ‘fit for purpose’ – that reflect the context of where you are at, and the stage your business is in.
In my case, having an expectation that I could generate a significant amount of revenue – whilst still building my website, my content and my brand – was slightly unrealistic!
So for what it’s worth, here is my take on how to set effective and appropriate goals in the early days of building your business.
Set yourself goals that relate to establishing your business. A good question to ask is ‘What do I need to focus on to get this up and running?’
Think about things like refining your product or idea, identifying your target market, nailing your core message and what it is that you offer. Then, test it in the market with volunteers who are willing to be part of a case study in exchange for a testimonial and the provision of valuable feedback.
Developing your brand is hugely important in this stage too. This is what will represent you authentically in the market, and – when done well – will attract your target market to you. Testing your message and product with case studies is an important part of this process, as you know straight away what resonates and what doesn’t.
Once you’ve built your foundations and are ready to ‘go live’ in terms of your website and social media presence, it’s time to set goals that relate to building an online presence, measuring the success of your marketing efforts, attracting subscribers and building as many relationships as possible.
When you are thinking about how to track progress in this phase, remember you are still brand new! Even though you have been obsessing, evolving, dreaming and agonizing for what feels like a decade – no-one else knows about you yet!
Build on the work you have done in the foundational phase. Test your product or service with your target market, put yourself out there and get heaps of feedback. Network, build relationships, add value to other contacts without asking for anything in return, and start building those future client relationships.
Whilst these examples relate to building a business, the thought process is absolutely valid for any challenge that requires you to build an offer, a presence, a team, a vision, credibility... whether it be in building a new business or proving yourself in that new leadership role.
As a leader, think about what you need to do both in the foundation stage and then the 'launch' stage of building your vision, strategy and team. You might not need to build your own website, but you sure as hell need to build credibility, presence and trust with your 'target market' just the same! How will people know about you and what value you can add if you don't have a way to showcase this? In terms of your target market, think stakeholders within your company, your team and prospective staff, as well as customers or partners.
· The first part of the process is where you set your ‘big vision’ – a critical part of any goal setting process, regardless of how mature your business or role is. Remember – without a clear vision, you will be directionless and burning time, money and effort. I usually use a 3 year time frame (and sometimes longer) to define where I want to go.
· Once you’ve set your vision, think about where you are in your journey relative to your end point. Set some realistic goals for that ‘phase’, and break them down into bite sized chunks – your 3 year vision should ultimately break down into monthly and quarterly measurable goals. Again – every business should be doing this, regardless of maturity.
· And finally – if you are just starting out, apply the filter of where you are in your journey – which phase are you in? Are the goals you have broken down for your first two quarters ‘fit for purpose’ given where you are?
If you approach goal-setting like this, you will find that you stop putting immense pressure on yourself and can actually start to enjoy the ride - not to mention create some powerful momentum and progress.
- Do you need someone who has ‘been there, done that’ and can objectively help you re-frame your goals from overwhelming to empowering?
- Do you need help setting your ‘big vision’ for the future so you know what you are running towards?
If you love the thought of creating a clear vision and goals that inspire you instead of crush you then book in for a free Discovery Session here: https://BookAnAppointmentWithAlex.as.me/DiscoveryCall