If you google ‘goals’ you will find over 1.6 billion search results. Therefore, there is no shortage of advice on how, when, where and why you set goals. However, some people are so obsessed with setting goals it leads to their downfall primarily because in their pursuit to achieve a goal, they fail to see the bigger picture.
Take Kodak for example, they were so focused on their goal to stay in the film and film processing chemicals business, they missed the opportunity to embrace digital photography. This decision ultimately led to their demise as a company declaring bankruptcy in January 2002. In trying to win the battle, they lost the war.
Let’s say you have a goal to become a CEO before you are 30 years old. On the way up the corporate ladder you resort to questionable tactics to get there. You take the credit for work you didn’t do, you lie about your accomplishments in a previous role and tramp on anyone who gets in your way. Finally, you are in the position you want – you are now CEO and get rid of the people who didn’t support you on your way up.
Be careful who you tramp on – on the way up, you might need them on the way down!
What you have also done is ruin any relationships and support you need to succeed in that role. Your people don’t trust you or respond to you as a leader. At best you are their boss. They sabotage your initiatives, withhold information from you, become yes people and don’t tell you what you need to know. In your doggedness to become CEO you stomped on the very people you needed to help you succeed in that role. Goal obsession led you to fail to foster a positive working environment and gain the support of your people. Having the right people around you and garnering support is critical to succeeding as a CEO.
The negative side of goal setting
Goals can create dangerous expectations which lead to appalling behavior. While targets keep you focused, productive and motivated, they can also push you too far into the realm of the unacceptable. If you don’t reach your goal, this could lead you into a perpetual state of anger, frustration and disappointment which ultimately leads to feeling like a failure.
Consider the Wall Street financial institutions who were vying to outperform each other which led to firms like Merrill Lynch and Citigroup taking on risks they were not equipped to manage. Merrill Lynch was so obsessed with the potential rewards of derivative trading, the goal became increasing revenues without proper risk management. Chasing the wrong goal almost sank the firm.
Poor target setting leads to bad behavior. Take Enron for example. In the 1990’s, executives were given large bonuses for meeting specific revenue goals. The problem was, in order to achieve revenue targets, off-balance sheet accounting occurred resulting in booking potential revenue that had not yet been earned. This lead to Enron rewarding reckless financial behavior which eventually led to prosecutions for fraud.
What about salespeople who are given a bonus for the most sales whether that be a trip to the Bahamas or some kind of financial reward. Without any other guidelines, it’s easy to see how unethical behavior might ensue. Without guidelines there is a risk of deceitful and fraudulent behavior.
Psychologists have found when people fall short of a goal, they tend to lie and make up the difference themselves. The problem is never the goal, the problem is what goal obsession does to them. It creates an environment where people trade ethics and values for reaching a target that may well have been unrealistic in the first place.
Create goals that relate back to your vision and values
The best goals are those that relate back to your vision and values. Goals that encourage people to work because they are passionate about they do. They work because the work is fun and rewarding and allows them to grow as individuals. Goals that don’t add unnecessary stress through a fear of failure or fear or reprisals. Goals that encourage ethical behavior, group cooperation and increase long term motivation.
Imagine a steam train that consists only of passenger carriages and a carriage full of coal. With no engine room to burn the coal, no steam can be produced. With no engine, there is no steam. With no steam there is nothing to power the train. As a result the train sits on the track and rusts.
This is why the Destiny train model is so powerful because to stay on track, your goals must always relate back to your vision and values. Goals then become achievable. With flexibility, they act as a guide to success rather than obsessively dominating your thinking.
Overcoming goal obsession
Don’t worry about the short-term results of goal setting. Focus on the end game, your vision, and execute the daily tactics that will see you succeed. Over time, the consistency of daily execution will get you there.
Create SMARTER GOALS that tie back to your vision and values. When you tie your goals back to your vision, you don’t fall into trap of building a bridge and not winning the war, making money yet losing wives, chasing power and the spotlight but losing supporters on the way up the corporate ladder.
When you tie your goals back to your values, you and your people are not tempted to engage in unethical behavior, telling lies and becoming a cheater.
By using the SMARTER acronym to set goals, you ensure your goals have clarity by making them Specific, Motivational and Accountable. They also need to be Relevant to what’s important to you relate back to your vision and have a Time frame attached so you don’t procrastinate. Your goals must be Ethical and true to your vision and values along with being Rewarding.
On a final note
Take a step back and ask yourself, are you so obsessed with goals you forget the bigger picture? Always start with your vision for the future and tie your goals back to your vision and values. This gives you a solid platform from which to springboard your future success.
By tying your goals back to your vision and values you are far more likely to succeed.
In a Nutshell
- Goals in isolation don’t work. You need to understand the bigger picture.
- The problem with goal obsession to can lead to questionable tactics.
- Goals can create dangerous expectations which lead to appalling behavior.
- While Dogged in your attempt to achieve an unrealistic goal, you become a self-absorbed schemer.
- You might lie, cheat, and do whatever you need to achieve the goal.
- The best goals are those that relate back to your vision and values.
- Create SMARTER GOALS that tie back to your vision and values.
To create better goals
- Write goals down.
- Write goals in the positive.
- Keep goals realistic.
- Set performance goals, not outcome goals.
- Set realistic goals.