Time to Rethink & Avoid 3 Big Reasons Why Business Goals Fail
What is it that we do that sets us up to fail with our business goals, and how can we avoid that this year?
This is a good question for any size of business.
There is a plethora of articles, books and advice on effective goal setting, from SMARTA goals to BHAGs. The list of what to do and what not to do is long!
The list below, based on my experience, covers the three big reasons that prevent business goals from ever being achieved. If these reasons are at play, you may as well start your strategic planning exercise all over again and rethink your goals completely.
Reason #1 – Setting Goals from Your Head not Your Heart
Goals set from the head only, are the goals you set because you can, not because you want to.
Goals set from the heart/passion/emotion are always going to be powerful. Goals driven simply by fact, logic or rational thinking will never inspire by comparison. They typically don’t create any energy or excitement.
For example, a client of mine owns a consulting firm. His background prior to starting his own firm was working with one of the big global firms, so he was used to being part of an international network. His own business had great clients and great opportunity. People had approached him to partner with their firms, he’d had offers to merge, and his corporate clients had offices overseas that presented more opportunities for growth.
He wanted to set a goal of expansion overseas and to open an office in the US that would get him closer to some of the big opportunities that were presenting. He had everything he needed to set and achieve that goal – the IP, the contacts, the potential, the support. He set that goal from a place of ‘being able to’ rather than really wanting to because he never made any real progress on it. His heart said don’t get on a plane and leave your family behind. His heart was always going to win which means he never would have achieved that goal, not at that time.
Follow your heart – you have to be really honest with yourself and what you really want – and you’ll have far more drive to achieve goals that have emotional resonance.
Reason #2 – Setting Goals That Aren’t Anchored to an Actual Decision
What I mean by this is that you can set a goal, but if you haven’t made an actual decision to do it, then you won’t.
Action follows a real decision, so you know when a goal is at least going to be pursued. From the moment you decide to go after it, action will follow.
For example, how often do people set goals for the new year of losing weight, getting fitter, making more money and so on, without really deciding that they are going to do those things. You can say it, but you don’t necessarily mean it…because you haven’t made the decision.
Decisions drive action, so when you really have made a decision about the goals you will pursue, action will flow from that. The only way to get traction on a goal is to take the first step into action.
A few years ago I travelled to Egypt with friends and had the most amazing and unforgettable experience. I had always been interested in ancient Egypt and probably watched every documentary on it over the years. I’ve done a lot of travelling but Egypt was always pushed out to ‘future’ travel plans. The reason my goal of going to Egypt became a reality is because I realized that although I’d always wanted to go, I’d never brought it into my ‘now’ timeframe, and that if I kept doing that another year would go by and I’d still be saying ‘one day I’d like to go’. It was probably the worst time for me to make that decision in a way, because it came right off the back of the global financial crisis, I’d made some big changes in my business, and there was a lot of uncertainty and mild panic in the market at the time. So, I decided to take a holiday! It was a really bad time, but something inside me shifted from ‘I’d like to go’ to deciding that I was going.
Once I made the decision, I started researching all the different holidays and places to visit. Then I did some research into the weather and best times of year to go. Then, some friends jumped on board my holiday vision. In the space of about 72 hours, we were going, and I could actually see us sailing down the Nile in a Felucca! We had the experience of a lifetime. If I had not made the decision to go, I still wouldn’t have been and would be thinking about going there ‘someday’ like I had for I don’t know how many years.
Think about something you’d really like to achieve as a goal, and then bring it into your ‘now’ timeframe, and decide to do it. If you don’t have the conviction of a decision, and immediate action, then it’s not the right goal for now.
When you set your goals for this year, or you review them, make sure that you have that feeling of certainty inside that you have really decided to make them happen. If you don’t feel that certainty then you need to ask yourself if there’s another goal that would inspire you more.
Compare decisions with goals to decisions in your weekend. You decide to go away for the weekend, so you know where you’re headed, you pack the car, lock the house, organize the kids and the dog, make sure you have petrol in the car (if you’re driving) and you go.
Compare that to a weekend when you’ve made no decisions at all about anything. Things just happen. Different driving force and motivation isn’t there? Goal setting is exactly the same.
Reason # 3 – You Lack Belief
When I was in a CEO group several years ago, we had strategic retreat weekends and everyone had to come up with huge goals for their businesses that were ‘BHAGs’ – Big Hairy Audacious Goals.
If you set a BHAG but you don’t actually believe that you can do it, then it’s a pointless goal that you will fail to achieve. Sometimes people are encouraged to set huge goals for their companies as a way to provide motivation – for themselves and their team. What often happens is that there’s a big gap between your BHAG and what you actually believe is possible.
We mostly operate day to day in the zone of what we know we can do. Stretch goals are still made possible based on what we think we can work out how to do. Big audacious goals take belief. It is human nature that we will move toward a BHAG if there is a degree of belief that it can be done. That goal sits where your future could be – if you believe you can do it.
When there is a ‘belief gap’ between your goals and what you believe is possible, the goals will never come to fruition.
So don’t set yourself up to fail because your goals are so big that you really don’t believe you will get there.
Make them emotional and exciting, make sure you can visualise them, make them a stretch, and take action. The more you flex the ‘stretch’ muscle, the closer you will get to believing that much bigger goals are possible.
In order to set goals that you can achieve, you must believe you can achieve them!
Some or all of these points will apply to how you approach goal setting for your company. I hope that you are able to avoid them when you plan for the year ahead. Remember to measure your goals and keep everyone accountable in the process!