Every new year brings the opportunity to realign on long-term business goals. But short-term goals are where teams perform their best work.

Think about it this way: When achieved consistently, strategic and impactful short-term goals move the needle towards the completion of long-term goals. It sounds logical, yet without being intentional about regularly setting short-term goals and checking in on them, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and end up working for the sake of working.

“If you never set a goal, then you can never reach it. Many workers, teams and managers are going through their day focused on fighting fires, instead of being strategic and focusing on reaching goals,” says Bridget Chebo, Director of Customer Success at We Are Working, a remote staffing and management company. Chebo has been building and leading remote and hybrid teams for 10 years, so she knows a thing or two about goal-setting in our day and age.

Below she shares her best insights on setting short-term goals that will deliver long-term results.

Short vs. long-term goals

According to Chebo, short-term goals offer three key benefits: They keep teams focused on the same priority, they foster a greater sense of community in the team and promote teamwork, and they allow a chance for celebration and recognition when the goal is met.

If you find it hard to differentiate what consists of a good short-term goal and what should be considered a long-term one, keep in mind the following differences.

“Long-term goals can be more ambitious, while short-term goals should be very realistic. Long-term goals obviously have longer time frames, so not all employees will still be around when the long-term goal is reached,” she says. In other words, if you’re not sure whether your intern who is with you for three months will see the goal’s completion, it might be too ambitious or too long-term.

Ready to set short-term goals with your team? These four important factors will ensure success.

Pick the right goals

Your short-term goals should be milestones along the way to your long-term ones. Consider higher-level yearly and quarterly goals. What kind of key results would get you closer to achieving those bigger goals? And keep in mind your strengths and resources as a team. What would be your team’s most impactful contribution towards the achievement of those goals?

Once you’ve identified important priorities, set S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound). “This is a tried-and-true method of setting goals that increases the likelihood of success,” says Chebo. “Short-term goals should be able to be measured in 30 days or less so the entire team can see the results.”

Only set a couple of short-term goals

When setting short-term goals, only set your sights on a couple of targets. “ If there are too many goals to focus on, you will dilute your efforts,” adds Chebo. And you might stress your team out. “Think of your ‘North Star’ metric, and focus your short-term goals on efforts that drive improvement to it.”

Having to choose one or two short-term goals forces you to focus and prioritize, and that’s exactly how you’ll reap one of the biggest benefits of shorter-term goal-setting.

Avoid a top-down approach

Your goal-setting process also needs to be collaborative. The beauty of it is since you’re setting smaller goals as a team, it’s way easier to co-create your goals and truly feel like you’re making them your own, a feeling you won’t necessarily get when discussing company-wide targets.

“Avoid a top-down approach where the manager is telling the team what the goals are. Be collaborative, ask the team what they think we should focus on. Fail to do this at your peril, as your team may not be invested in the goals or understand why or how they should work towards them,” explains Chebo.

Get your team invested

On that note, “What’s in it for me?” is a question you should answer and define with each team member when setting a short-term goal. Aligning individual goals with team ones is key for success, according to Chebo: “Without this important step, employees can be left wondering why they should care.”

For example, if one of your team members wants to develop specific competencies, working on some aspects of the goal might get them excited and motivated to contribute.

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