Business goals

Advice from a CEO on how to set business goals in six easy steps

Editor’s Note: Each week, Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice for entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at [email protected]

How to “make” the objectives?

– CEO of a seed company in the start-up phase

Dear Founder,

I’m glad you asked about the goals. Goals are something humans need, and they’re extremely important in a business because they set the stage for what matters and what success looks like.

From the first days of running your department or launching any initiative, you set organizational goals to get what you want. Setting goals is natural and easy to do. However, setting achievable, realistic and inspiring goals is where the magic comes in.

Goals are made to evolve. As a CTO friend of mine says, “I reserve the right to wake up smarter every day. Everything I said yesterday could be wrong and if so, I will change it.

But where to start ?

I always start with this question: “What am I aiming for? And then the natural sequel: “If we get there, will it matter?”

Too often I see people setting achievable goals, but the bar is set so low that the business doesn’t reach the destiny he aims. (This scenario isn’t inspiring for everyone involved.) Conversely, if the bar is set too high and the team thinks it’s unachievable, they won’t really commit to achieving the goals.

I’m a perfectionist, so I want to achieve what I set out to do, but I also want to set myself goals that would be amazing and hard to achieve. I’ve learned that it’s better to aim high and not quite achieve perfection than to nail down every goal and deliver mediocrity.

It’s a six-step process that I use to help set and achieve goals:

  1. Assess where the team is. Is it a performing team? How high performance? How does it work ?
  2. Describe the goals that I would be proud to achieve. What do I think is amazing?
  3. Take a step back. Understand that very bold goals can intimidate the team. Teams that aren’t performing well yet will think they can’t achieve aggressive goals. When goals are out of reach, you don’t get the buy-in or commitment you need to get things done.
  4. Re-evaluate goals. What would be acceptable for me and also logical for the team? Look for the magic mix here – a goal that’s a little dreadful (aggressive AND inspiring) but also realistic (achievable). Rather than setting commitments for the next quarter, set them for nine months. I’ve learned that people panic after 90 days, but are ready to set more aggressive goals for nine months. Given enough time, people think they can do anything. I also try to put mechanisms in place to reward people for stretching and getting close. For example, at eBay, if we delivered 80% of the product roadmap on time with 100% quality, that was a win, and if we still hit 100%, that meant we weren’t aiming high enough. .
  5. Present these reassessed goals and a plan to the team. If you did this well, the team will still find the goal aggressive but also achievable. At eBay around 2000-2001, we were at about half a billion in revenue, and CEO Meg Whitman said she wanted us to hit $3 billion by 2005. It was like when JFK said that would send a man to the moon. We didn’t initially have a plan, but we found a way to do it, and everyone rallied.
  6. Check how you are doing against your goals. It’s not “set and forget”. It’s about monitoring, measuring and correcting. When you miss a goal, acknowledge it, seek to understand why, and commit to improving. Remember that if you are late in the first quarter, you still have three quarters to play. And it’s much easier to correct the course sooner than later.

After a team has gone through a few cycles of using this process and successfully achieving its goals, it begins to achieve aggressive goals consistently. And then I saw something even more incredible happen: they set and beat aggressive goals that exceeded my expectations.. I love nothing more than when I have to call them back. But it all starts with a process and a plan.