Aspiring people have personal and professional goals as do most driven teams.
However, having goals is a double-edged sword. Goals could be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you relate to them.
We create goals in order to focus, compel and motivate ourselves and others. If we are ambitious, we typically take on bold and aggressive ones. We don’t stop there; we typically create a detailed execution plan with strategies and milestones.
Then we delve into implementing our goals and it doesn’t take long before we are so immersed in the roller coaster of our day-to-day life that we forget that we are the ones who came up with our goals in the first place.
When we achieve our goals, meet our milestones and/or achieve our plan as we wanted, we feel great. More than that, we believe we are great. Our mood and spirit are uplifted, we feel empowered and invincible.
However, when we fall short or fail to achieve our goals, milestones or plan we tend to feel disappointed, upset, anxious and/or stressed. We often second-guess our ability to achieve future goals, in the same or other areas. We get nervous about how others will view us. We often even make it mean that we will never achieve our vision or that it will never work smoothly for us.
For the most part, our relationship with falling short is not simple or objective; we don’t view it as: “we have failed to achieve a goal”. We make it mean something much bigger: “we are failures”.
Actually, in both success and failure, we tend to have a reactive and undermining relationship. Both leave us smaller than our circumstances, commitments and dreams. If we fail to achieve a goal, we feel a failure. If we achieve our goal, we feel invincible.
In both scenarios, our identity and self-worth are wrapped up in external circumstances. In either scenario, we are only as worthy as our results in relation to our objectives. And, because we created our objectives and then forgot that key fact, we are now prisoners of our own creation.
The only reason for having goals in the first place is in order to empower and inspire us to reach higher grounds. Creating goals that compel us is a powerful act. However, by forgetting, or not owning that we are the creators of such a powerful dynamic, we lose all the power.
Corporations often take the objective game to a whole other level of drama.
I was supporting a regional sales team of a global product and service organization that recently became public. The company was growing steadily due to the sales team achieving their sales objectives each quarter.
Then, toward the end of one-quarter things changed. A few big regional deals that the team was betting on to achieve its goals didn’t go through according to the plan and the region was at risk of missing its sales objective.
The global sales leader called the regional president multiple times urging, even demanding him to do whatever it took to meet his objectives.
The regional account managers started giving excessive discounts, at times giving up all profitability just to move deals forward in order to achieve their objectives.
The region ended up barely achieving their objective. However, no one felt good about it. People felt they did the wrong thing for the wrong reason; they felt the price of the apparent success was too high – giving up profitable business and ravaging the next quarter’s prospects just to cross the line with the objective at hand.
I guess it is easier to give a huge discount to a client, even at the expense of doing the wrong thing for the health of the business, than to have the tough conversation with your colleagues or boss about not allowing objectives to dictate bad behavior.
I recently spoke to the CEO of a different company who took on bold objectives and missed his first milestone. He shared with me that he felt guilty about the high bar he set, because had he not done that his people would have felt happy and successful.
I see this type of unhealthy, reactionary, survival-based behavior around objectives play out all the time in so many companies.
The lesson here is:
- All goals, strategies, and plans are made up.
- Don’t be a victim of your objectives.
- Own the fact that you created them for the purpose of focus and empowerment.
- Have the courage to manage your objectives, including saying ‘no’ to them when they are no longer the right way to go.
- Most important, don’t let your objectives manage you.