Effective Business Goals: What gets in the way?

The importance of setting goals in life is far from a new or innovative concept. Aristotle got the ball rolling with his speculations on causality and the pivotal notion that the “final cause” of any action is the end towards which it directs… In other words, purpose is necessary to cause action.

This inspired psychologists like Edwin Locke to spend the 1960’s researching the motivating influence that goals have on human behaviour (one can but guess at what kind of goals were popular for the 60’s generations). Despite the potentially distracting influences of the time, Locke’s work clearly established the positive relationship between clearly identified goals and human performance. This laid the ground for millions to be made by popular motivational writers and it is unlikely that there are many people today who would question the principle that people who take the time to focus on clear and achievable life goals go on to achieve more in life.

Where things get a little more challenging is moving this fairly simple but powerful philosophy out of the personal spheres, where we can be masters of our domains, and into our business life. One of the first questions that should be asked is “What are the goals that drive my business?” There are many reason why this can be a challenging question to answer.

1. Playing blind man’s bluff

Often business leaders are so busy problem solving that they spend all of their energy on the now and having nothing left over to refocus on the future. Goals reduce to the size of just getting through today, this week or this month and the big picture sits neglected on the bottom of the to do list. Flipping the list upside down can, in itself, solve many of the daily struggles by putting a new perspective on the real priorities.

2. Tripping over the obvious

Many business leaders think that their goals are obvious…too obvious to bother stating. It’s assumed that everyone knows what the business is all about and what it is trying to achieve. In reality however, this is often not the case. Every person who is part of a business makes multiple small choices every day. Each one of those choices leads a business in a certain direction. When those directions are not clearly articulated, understood or aligned the daily decisions of different parts of a business can be pulling in slightly different directions…or indeed in opposing directions. And even if everyone does know what the goals are – if we don’t state them, honour them, articulate them clearly and give energy to them then they lose their power to motivate, to drive innovation and to inspire bigger and better outcomes.

3. Making Pies in the Sky

There is nothing wrong with aiming high…shooting for the stars….setting your sights on the top of the mountain. What is needed however, is a clear map for getting there, and a few satellite pictures of what that mountain top actually looks like. Shooting for the stars is great, as long as you know exactly which star you want to tackle, what that star is made of (and just how hot it really is), what asteroids lie along the way, what rocket ship is capable of getting you there and exactly what fuel is needed to make that ship power up. Simply chanting “We are gonna be the BEST!!” is great fun at Friday afternoon drinks, but is not an effective business strategy.

4. Mistaking milestones for goals

Often business leaders confuse goals with that the things that they measure progress by – their milestones or pointers along the way to their actual goals. Common examples include “We want to sell lots more of our product”, “We want to attract a greater share of consumer market” or “We want to make enough money to expand our business”. These statements all relate to progress markers – not the end goals. Increasing sales, attracting customers, raising income levels, increasing staff numbers… these are all ways of measuring progress – a means to an end – they are not goals in and of themselves. If are not sure if a target is a milestone or a goals, then ask yourself a simple question – “Why?”….Why do we want those things? What will achieving them mean for our business? What it is all leading us towards? The answers to those questions will help you articulate the rewards you are working so hard to get to, and differentiate the big picture from the steps along the way. Then you can engage others in the quest and know that you are all marching through the milestones together, in the same direction, for the same reasons.
Effective business leaders are clear about the end-goals that are the “pot of gold” that is possible once progressive milestones are achieved.

5. Taking it Easy, Man

A paradoxical business reality is that harder (but not impossible) goals are more motivating than those that people think are easy to achieve. The trick is to be specific. This is where those milestones come into their own. If the pot of gold looks enticing but oh, so far away….clear, measurable milestones make the pathway look positively challenging but not unachievable. And this is what drives real progress.

6. Being stuck in same-old thinking

Commitment and loyalty to your team is a fundamental successful business ethic. A core business strength is a strong team who know each other well, who have stuck together through thick and thin, and who have learned and grown with the business… However, when a business needs a redirection or an innovation to really kick home its goals, don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with fresh minds, new ideas and different perspectives. Build your networks with people who inspire you, add value to your business, bring diversity of expertise and have climbed their own mountains. Einstein is quoted as saying that “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”. This applies to your own thinking as much as it does to that of the people around you. Whether it’s a new staff member, a new lunch networking meeting, a new partnership or a new consultant… If what you are doing is not working, or could work better, then step outside the comfortable company of those who are supporting you to stay the same. Actively seek connection with people who are at the top of their game in the areas that are challenging your business.

Find inspiration for new ways of thinking and surround yourself with people who will be part of making changes for the better in your business.

Block 5 Consulting

Phone: 0419 717 858
Email: admin@block5.com.au

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