The UN needs reform. Madeleine Albright

Goals, Goals, Goals

Early January is the time of cluttered desks and busy schedules. But the big picture is important, too: The definition of goals for the coming month, quarter, or year.

Every off-day between Christmas and New Year’s comes back to haunt you in January. Tasks are often piled up high after the holidays – maybe not quite as high as after a mid-year vacation, but still… But at least the energy and enthusiasm are still abundant in early January: they’ll have to carry you through the next 365 days. Their force must not wane, they must be channeled and guided to productive ends.

Ready, set, go: the workday buzz is back. Emails must be answered, more emails must be written, meetings must be scheduled, all for the success of the business. But the first week of the new year should ideally be devoted to a company’s employees. It’s important to define very early the goals for the coming year. They must not be limited to business aspects but should also include those ideas and targets that contribute to the personal development and satisfaction of the team members. Employees’ personal satisfaction will indirectly contribute to a company’s success, but it’s also something that people take with them if they eventually leave the company to further their career elsewhere.

The definition of goals is the nucleus of a good work balance. Every day, new tasks arise and vie for our attention – even at the highest levels of management. This makes it even more crucial to establish a clear foundation, to focus one’s attention, and to spell out the priorities for the new year.

Aside from annual goals, it’s also possible to define quarterly or monthly goals. They structure the year and can provide additional guidance – it would be unfortunate if one reflected back only after twelve months had passed and found that one’s work and attention had gradually diverged from the goals that were defined at the beginning of the year. Quarterly conversations are a good way to provide more frequent feedback.

The three-month rhythm also allows for goals that are closely linked to the operational level and not to the more abstract strategic reasoning. The key question is: How can I improve in my daily work? It’s even possible to schedule monthly employee meetings – if annual and quarterly goals are the foundation, monthly feedback is the icing on the proverbial cake. We should not be afraid of getting lost in a jungle of goals. After all, annual goals operate at a higher strategic level than monthly or quarterly goals.

An emerging business that cannot compete with the pay grades of established corporate giants can thus create added value for its employees: they know that they are valued members of the team and can expect the company to care about their professional and their personal progress. This is one competitive edge of small start-ups over large and anonymous corporations.

Newconomy is the new weekly column for the start-up industry. It focuses on the intersection of classical and new economies and of politics and entrepreneurialism. Newconomy is sponsored by Factory, the new start-up hub in Berlin.


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