When you’re new to a leadership role, or to a company, it can be difficult to know where to begin. You have to get your team together, delegate tasks, make sure everything runs smoothly. And then there’s the big one: Making sure to set goals that stretch you and your team without being too lofty to accomplish. At the same time, they have to accomplish the business goals of the company at large.
It’s a difficult balance, but it can be done. Here are three major guidelines, used by three successful marketing leaders, to help you get you off on the right foot when it comes to the goal-setting process:
Consider the human factor
Solid team-level goals should reflect the needs of the company and help push the team in the right direction. And that’s a good start, but the process requires more nuance.
Ultimately, the execution depends on the collective actions of individuals, so those individuals—i.e. your team—need to have their own individual goals. While it might make sense to have those be completely tied to the needs of the higher-ups, that approach can actually backfire when executed.
That’s because people may not be as motivated if they don’t feel like they have input, or like they’re making progress on their own personal and professional goals. And that’s where the balancing act comes into play.
“The company needs the staff to reach its goals, but if the company doesn’t reach its goals, it won’t be able to employ the staff. In other words, all goals are mutually beneficial to both the company and the employees,” says Arielle Reyes, digital media manager at E-marketing Associates.
So having the conversation around career-related goals is vital to supporting long-term company goals because it provides people with emotional stakes, like earning a promotion or changing roles. That’s a great way to ensure the individual stakes are high enough to provide the necessary support for the company’s goals. But again, it’s all a balancing act.
“If I have the owner in one ear saying that goals need to be at a certain level, but the staff is giving me push back, creating a middle ground that will make all parties happy will be necessary,” adds Reyes.
Keep the lines of communication open
Just as it’s important to know what both your employees and the company need, it’s also important to be willing to get input from others during the goal-setting process in order to make sure that the goals you set aren’t out of reach, given your timeline.
“I encourage feedback from the team in order to ensure they don’t feel overwhelmed. If for some reason they do, I often meet with individuals one-on-one and discuss what it would take for us to reach a particular goal. For example, why do they believe they will not be able to reach this goal? Will they need more support in a certain area? I do this to determine whether the goal really is unrealistic, or if I need to take action to empower my staff and help them reach our goals,” says Reyes.
That kind of conversation can help you get to the root of the goal and start guarding against potential difficulties.
“If your company typically makes two sales a month and you create a goal to make five sales a month for 2020, it’s not likely that you will be able to achieve this goal unless there are some drastic changes taking place,” says Reyes. “Employees may also be baffled by this aggressive goal, and it can be detrimental to morale.”
Conversations around what’s possible and the various ways to achieve your goals, though potentially difficult, can both illuminate creative strategies and ensure that everyone is on board with the plan. That helps with the question of individual stakes, too.
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Be sure to reflect
When shaping your team’s goals, another important part of the process is taking the time to look back and reflect.
“I think that reflection is obviously a key part of goal setting,” says Dylan Max, head of growth marketing at Netomi. “You want to know what your starting point is to be able to come up with achievable goals that make sense for you. Reflection allows you to see where you did really well, where you can improve. If you hit your goals, did that actually drive business value or was it not what you expected?”
You’ll want to consider both past performance as well as how you want your team to perform in the future, and use any available metrics and data to help you shape those goals.
“I think you have to have a model, like a statistical model that you can back your numbers out of,” says Joe Lazauskas, head of marketing at Contently, a content marketing platform. “For instance, when I calculate what our goal for number of demo requests is going to be, I’m not plucking it out of thin air. Like, ‘OK, this matches up with what we’ve done in the past couple quarters. So, traditionally, I know that this is an attainable goal.’”
The tricky part is when you don’t have any of that data or past performance information to fall back on. One exercise Max suggests for getting around the problem of not knowing exactly what will work is writing down your plan as though you have three months to get to your desired result, and then doing it as if you have one month, one week and one hour to make progress on that goal.
“Using that sort of creative thinking, you start to realize how efficient you can be with that goal once you set a precedent of being organized,” he says.
Then, as you and your team work toward the goals you set out to accomplish, it’s important to both track and evaluate your progress as you go and make sure that you’re actually getting the results you want to get.
“Keep an open mind,” adds Max. “There are many ways to achieve a goal that you set. If something isn’t working for you, you should really take the time to be creative and really work out the different ways you could attain that goal . . . Be flexible in the way that you want to achieve your ultimate goals, that’s sort of the most important thing.”