People simply can’t live without goals. Just like vitamins, goals are a necessary component of proper functioning. The goals must be clear to all parties and form a sturdy whole of conjoining parts: the poles and the net.
Without goals, sports teams literally and figuratively could not even exist. Remove the goals and you’re left with chaos. So why would this be possible in a corporate context?
Employees without goals will create their own, simply because they are a natural driving force. Those self-made goals can turn into real phenomena, reinforced by internal politics, personal motives and unwritten behavioral codes. And we call that ‘culture’. These half-hearted efforts seldom lead to successful transitions or actualized organizational strategies.
It is therefore crucial to give people clear goals, focused on output. What is more, they should be connected to their personal talents and skills. Recent scientific research confirms that people who can connect their skills to the realization of organizational success perform significantly better and are more zealous in their work.
No two goals are the same
Aside from providing added value, another important incentive for people is the sense of autonomy they have when it comes to realizing their ambitions. In other words: the goal of breaking your personal record leads to a better performance than the goal of reaching first place. In the latter case, the performance is relative to others. In the corporate environment it remains a challenge to formulate goals in such a way that they actually improve performances and set desired changes in motion.
During my years as member of the Board of Directors I’ve made great efforts to set up a completely new commercial structure. An important element in this process was setting up the account management, using an account plan as the starting point: a one-pager with the account strategy translated into concrete goals and actions.
In order to support this approach, the managers were personally involved with the reviews of the account plans. For sales personnel, these reviews formed an attractive platform to perform their ‘art’ at the highest level. As Board of Directors we also learned a great deal about the functioning of our own organization.
An interesting aspect of the reviews was the part about ambitions and goals. Many account managers set their bets low by giving a 10% growth prognosis. Ambitious, they thought, since the market was showing 6% growth at the time.
One of the consequences was that many of the account plans showed virtually the same approach and weren’t ambitious at all, in my view. “How much do these clients spend on IT per year?” I would ask, “and what if we would now want 25% of that? That would bring the growth up to 400%. Considering that, the whole plan should be revised and we ought to adjust our basic principles and client approach.”
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
Goals give direction to our actions and create infectious enthusiasm and zeal: after all, they are the vitamins we need for improved performance. When people set gutsy goals, movement ensues within organizations and individuals. Of the five elements that, when combined, lead to successful transitions, the ‘what’ is a crucial first element. In my next blog I will address the second element: the ‘how’, from paper to performance.