Pretend for a moment you have two identical companies working on a problem.

They have the same resources, the same levels of talent, and they are both competing to win a market. What will set them apart and ultimately define who will succeed is how they approach the problem--and that approach starts by setting the right goals.

Goal setting is essential and starts at the leadership level. It varies wildly from case to case as everyone has their own unique style, pace, and expectations. In startups especially, it can be really difficult to set the right parameters for goals, as you want them to be both challenging and achievable.

Oftentimes the company that is able to push its team by setting the right goals will emerge victorious.

At my company Porch.com, we always work to remember these tips when developing our day-to-day goals.

1) Don't get bogged down by the big end goal.

We all want our teams to achieve big things and that starts by making big and audacious goals. But it can be daunting when you're standing at the starting line, trying to comprehend the marathon ahead. The key is to take it one step at a time, essentially breaking a big goal down into many smaller goals.

We do this using Objectives and Key Results or OKR's. For example, if we define our objective is to build "a great company to work for," we break that down by defining a series of key results. Key results are smaller quantified actionable goals that the team can strive for on a time based schedule, such as something like "maintain an 90% or above on employee happiness surveys." The balance of having a big audacious long-term goal combined with short-term goals breaks the mission into bite size pieces that won't overwhelm you or your team.

2) Be prepared to adjust the bar

When our company was just starting out with a small sales team, it was a challenge setting targets for performance. Sometimes the team would have weeks where everyone would hit goals, and other stretches where no one would. As a leader, I sat down at the beginning of every week to review progress, get feedback, and evaluate whether or not the goals were serving their purpose.

Startups hold themselves to a different time standard that regular companies. Things move fast and even when you feel like you are already at top speed, you find a way go faster. The quickness comes from necessity, but lots of change makes it tough to set accurate goals that are both challenging and achievable. Do your best to set quantifiable goals at the right level, but also keep an eye on them and manage progress to keep the team motivated.

3) Make them visible

I am a big believer that team and individual goals should be visual at all times. It keeps people accountable to each other and also let's everyone see how their goals fit into the great mission of the company. At our company, we use white boards all throughout the office to track and measure progress and it's great to see them completely marked by the end of the month.

I'm also a believer that when goals are visible, so should the successes. When our teams certain task, we have a bell they ring that signifies a win. People feel good when the accomplish something and everyone can benefit from rallying around.

4) Make them fun

Large established companies have little problem in incentivizing employees with money as a reward for hitting goals. For startups, that's not always the case. Sometimes you have to get creative. In winter of last year, we set a goal to reach a big milestone for our sales team. The reward for hitting it? Our Chief Revenue Officer had to jump in the chilly lake outside of our office. The result was a lot of fun, excitement, and real productivity.

Published on: May 16, 2015