Leadership Barometer 42 Impossible Goals

March 16, 2020

Does your organization establish goals that seem impossible to reach? If so, you are not alone.

Many organizations go through a negotiation process with individuals and teams to establish annual performance goals. Often, the person or team is asked for their opinion on the best that can be achieved in the following year.

Then, just for good measure, senior managers tack on an additional 15 to 25% and set that as the target goal.

When employees learn to anticipate this markup process, they instinctively sandbag their initial offer to account for the anticipated bump by senior management. It becomes a game of cat and mouse to establish reasonable stretch goals, and in the end, the organization and its employees suffer.

I believe a better process starts with an understanding of what the entire organization needs and then breaks down individual and team performance goals that will ensure the organization meets its commitments.

Quite often, goals set by senior managers seem unrealistic or unobtainable, which has a significant negative impact on trust. When this happens, employees take on a fatalistic viewpoint that the team has no chance to perform up to expectations. Team members hope they can achieve the goal, but deep down they don’t believe it is possible.

This sequence creates a Pygmalion effect where the negative outcome is nearly guaranteed.

The truth is, you cannot “hope” your way to success. You must believe and expect success for it to become reality.

When stretching for seemingly impossible goals, the most important ingredient is not technology, market size, manufacturing capacity, quality processes, sales force expertise, HR policies, or any other tangible enablers. The most important ingredient is belief.

This fundamental principle has been identified by philosophers and social psychologists numerous times throughout history. It seems that, through the ages, our civilization keeps discovering the same ideas. Here are a few famous quotations from historical figures you may recognize. Notice how they all say the same thing in different words.

Zig Zigler – “When you believe it, you will see it.”
Earl Nightingale – “We become what we think about.”
Brian Tracy – “If you think you can do it and hang on to that vision, you will accomplish it.”
Henry Ford – “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t… You are right.”
Lou Holtz – “If you get people to believe in themselves, they will set bigger goals.”
Maxwell Maltz – “What you believe will happen actually becomes physical reality.”
Norman Vincent Peale – “The power of positive thinking: No success occurs without it.”
Andrew Carnegie – “You will not be able to do it until you believe you can do it.”
Tony Robbins – “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy.”
Napoleon Hill – “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

This list is just a small sample of available quotations on the same topic. The phenomenon of creating success by visualizing it already being accomplished is well known.

Unfortunately, most teams in the working world have forgotten this time-honored wisdom. They wring their hands and lament that achieving the goal set out by management is simply impossible. Well of course it is impossible if they believe that.

Quite often, teams believe they can’t accomplish the goal because they cannot visualize how it could possibly be done. It is important to not get discouraged at the start because the “how” is not evident. Forget about how you will accomplish a goal; simply set out to believe that it will happen.

There are many tools available that can help you accomplish the goal. Resolve to find the right ones for your situation. If you do that, you will achieve the goal in ways you could not possibly imagine at the outset. Unfortunately, it is easy to experience the pangs of fear, especially in an environment of low trust.

The antidote is to teach individuals and teams to re-train their brains so that they drive out any thought of failure. Set the goal high, and then use all the power of mind over matter to make that goal a reality.

That sounds so simple, but it is very difficult to gain the skills required to believe rather than doubt.

Experts like the ones above, have taught us that if we reiterate an affirmative statement that we not only intend to meet the goal but to exceed the goal, then repeat that phrase in earnest at least twice a day for 30 consecutive days, we will actually bring forth a vital energy that was unavailable prior to the new mindset.

It is not the rote repeating of an affirmation that makes the difference. The method gives us a chance to catch the difference between the positive attitude and any negative thoughts or feelings that arise. We then have a moment of truth where we have the opportunity to examine what is holding us back.

As we address these self-limiting beliefs, we can come into mental and emotional alignment and resonance with the affirmation. We become energetically congruent with the vision, and that brings forth powers that are truly amazing.

Having this resonance and congruity changes everything. Of course, a positive mental attitude is not the only factor that will allow us to meet difficult goals.

We have to have a good plan, we have to execute well, we have to have high trust and great teamwork, we have to work incredibly hard, we must employ lean and six sigma principles, we need the right technology and resources, and, yes, we sometimes need some luck.

The truth is that by having the right frame of mind at the outset, we enable the other necessary elements to materialize in the physical world. When we expect and believe we will achieve the goal, sometimes the elements required to accomplish it materialize as if by magic. It is not magic; it is simply how the universe works.

I am not reporting anything new here, but I believe it needs to be reiterated, especially when goals for the next increment of time are being set. This is the time to create a new mindset that will allow you and your team to consistently reach or exceed seemingly impossible goals.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc.


Dreams Versus Goals

January 11, 2014

Sailboat rounding breakwater with spinnaker sail and mainA long term goal is a vision of the future that pulls you toward an objective. You can sail in a ship without a rudder, but you will have little chance of getting to an interesting place.

You will just sail around aimlessly wherever the wind blows, like many people do with their lives.

But, given a goal (also called vision) of your destination, you now have a rudder and can steer the moments of your life to keep you moving toward the goal. You have a much greater chance of reaching it.

Oh sure, there are going to be stormy days and nights. There will be times where there is no wind at all to propel your boat, but since you have the goal, no matter what comes up, you are always heading in the right direction.

Maybe you are not going as fast as you like, but at least it’s in the right direction. That is why goals are so important in our lives.

Brian Tracy once wrote,

“People with clear, written goals accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.”

It is because the goal becomes like the pull of a magnet on a piece of steel. Once you get the proximity roughly right, then the end result is a foregone conclusion.

You instinctively accentuate those things that are aligned with your goal and de-emphasize those things that are not compatible with it. Problems are obstacles in the pathway, but they do not stop you, they teach you.

Having a goal actually shapes behavior as described very well by Jim Rohn when he said, “If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.” Goals help align the atoms and molecules in our body to enhance our chances of accomplishing great things in our lives.

With all of these advantages of goals, it is still a fact that most people do not have specific, written goals for their lives.

They have dreams to do things, like a bucket list, but they miss the true power of goals.

That represents a huge opportunity for many people to enhance the quality of their lives by simply doing some planning.

Here are 10 things that can move you from hazy and wishful dreams to productive and powerful goals.

1. Make your goals tangible

Vague goals or mental wish lists are a dime a dozen. We all have good intentions and dreams, but to really engage the power of goals, you simply must write them down. The act of committing goals to paper or keyboard means that you can no longer push them aside later on when the going gets tough.

Write your goals! Write your goals! Write your goals!

2. Goals should represent reach

Easy goals are not powerful because we can accomplish them without effort. Pie-in-the-sky goals are also not very powerful because we see them as impossible. To be effective, goals must be difficult to accomplish, but possible to achieve with great effort.

3. It is better to err on the side of too great a goal than too small

Since goals pull us in the direction we want to go, having an aggressive goal is much more valuable than an easy goal. As Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” He actually did pretty well in his time, if you recall.

4. Tell other people your goals

Sharing your goals with people you respect and love has a way of legitimizing them in your mind. It also helps garner friend’s support and creativity as you work toward your goals.

“I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours” (Bob Dylan said that).

5. Refine the goals to just a vital few

Avoid having a long shopping list of goals. One or two good goals are enough. Reason: Goals help us focus critical energy on what must be done. If we have 15 goals for the next increment of time, we will get confused and discouraged.

“One solid goal is more powerful that 10 dreams.” (I said that.)

6. Repeat the key goals every morning and evening

Letting your goals sit idle on the shelf like a hoary old book renders them quaint, but useless. You must engage your subconscious mind continually to consider all the things you can do to pursue your goals. The best way to do that is to make a conscious affirmation in the morning and evening.

Some people say, “I don’t need to do that, I will not forget my goal.” They do not understand the power of affirmation. As you restate your goals daily, you call up the power of the universe to help you align your thoughts and actions to be consistent with your goals. This amazing power allows a magnet-like attraction that draws you toward the things you seek.

7. Form a group of people who understand and agree with your goals

Unless your goal is to be a hermit, you are better off with a Mastermind Group helping you. The concept of a Mastermind Group was generated by the work of Napoleon Hill as he prepared his philosophy called “The Science of Personal Achievement.”

Napoleon later summarized his findings in the book, Think and Grow Rich. Come to think of it, growing rich is usually a pretty good idea.

8. Celebrate the small steps along the way

Achieving a challenging goal is often a lot of work. For example, if your goal is to obtain a PhD degree, you will have to endure countless hours of study, writing, and even taking exams to verify your knowledge. For most people, the work involved in achieving a worthy goal is often tedious and unpleasant, but winners gladly engage in the effort because the smell of success is so alluring.

It is wise to celebrate the baby steps on the way toward your goal because it helps remind you why you are subjecting yourself to all the work in the first place.

9. Enjoy the ride

The ride is really the prize. Most people think the achievement is the big deal, and they are often deflated to find out that the most exhilarating part was during the struggle. They look at the house they just built for the past 15 years struggling all the way to juggle the bills and buy the materials, and they have a tendency to say, “There must be more to it than this.” Well, yes and no. The real fun was in the struggle, and the accomplishment was just the icing on the cake, but you do get to live in a nice house now.

10. Look back with pride

Every once in a while look over your shoulder to see how far you have come. The progress is often slow enough that we do not even recognize it: like watching a child grow up. We need to remind ourselves of what is really happening.

The best way I have found to do this is to list my accomplishments each year. I typically do that on New Year’s Eve. I am often blown away with the things that were accomplished that I never would have thought possible, yet the vast majority of them were enabled by my following the steps above.

Could I have done better? Of course! Did I do better than I thought possible? You betcha! Am I energized to do better next year? Just throw down the puck, and watch me go.


Impossible Goals

December 29, 2012

AwesomeDoes your organization establish goals that seem impossible to reach? If so, you are not alone. Many organizations go through a negotiation process with individuals and teams to establish annual performance goals. Often, the person or team is asked for their opinion on the best that can be achieved in the following year. Then, just for good measure, senior managers tack on an additional 15 to 25% and set that as the target goal.

When employees learn to anticipate this markup process, they instinctively sandbag their initial offer to account for the anticipated bump by senior management. It becomes a game of cat and mouse to establish reasonable stretch goals, and in the end, the organization and its employees suffer. I believe a better process starts with an understanding of what the entire organization needs and then breaks down individual and team performance goals that will ensure the organization meets its commitments.

Quite often, goals set by senior managers seem unrealistic or unobtainable, which has a significant negative impact on trust. When this happens, employees take on a fatalistic viewpoint that the team has no chance to perform up to expectations. Team members hope they can achieve the goal, but deep down they don’t believe it is possible. This creates a Pygmalion effect where the negative outcome is nearly guaranteed.

The truth is, you cannot “hope” your way to success. You must believe and expect success for it to become reality. When stretching for seemingly impossible goals, the most important ingredient is not technology, market size, manufacturing capacity, quality processes, sales force expertise, HR policies, or any other tangible enablers. The most important ingredient is belief.

This fundamental principle has been identified by philosophers and social psychologists numerous times throughout history. It seems that, through the ages, our civilization keeps discovering the same ideas. Here are a few famous quotations from historical figures you may recognize. Notice how they all say the same thing in different words.

Zig Zigler – “When you believe it, you will see it.”
Earl Nightingale – “We become what we think about.”
Brian Tracy – “If you think you can do it and hang on to that vision, you will accomplish it.”
Henry Ford – “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t… You are right.”
Lou Holtz – “If you get people to believe in themselves, they will set bigger goals.”
Maxwell Maltz – “What you believe will happen actually becomes physical reality.”
Norman Vincent Peale – “The power of positive thinking: No success occurs without it.”
Andrew Carnegie – “You will not be able to do it until you believe you can do it.”
Tony Robbins – “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy.”
Napoleon Hill – “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
…..

This list is just a small sample of available quotations on the same topic. The phenomenon of creating success by visualizing it already being accomplished is well known. Unfortunately, most teams in the working world have forgotten this time-honored wisdom. They wring their hands and lament that achieving the goal set out by management is simply impossible. Well of course it is impossible if they believe that.

Quite often, teams believe they can’t accomplish the goal because they cannot visualize how it could possibly be done. It is important to not get discouraged at the start because the “how” is not evident. Forget about how you will accomplish a goal; simply set out to believe that it will happen. There are many tools available that can help you accomplish the goal. Resolve to find the right ones for your situation. If you do that, you will achieve the goal in ways you could not possibly imagine at the outset. Unfortunately, it is easy to experience the pangs of fear.

The antidote is to teach individuals and teams to re-train their brains so that they drive out any thought of failure. Set the goal high, and then use all the power of mind over matter to make that goal a reality. That sounds so simple, but it is very difficult to gain the skills required to believe rather than doubt.

Experts like the ones above, have taught us that if we reiterate an affirmative statement that we not only intend to meet the goal but to exceed the goal, then repeat that phrase in earnest at least twice a day for 30 consecutive days, we will actually bring forth a vital energy that was unavailable prior to the new mindset. It is not the rote repeating of an affirmation that makes the difference.

The method gives us a chance to catch the difference between the positive attitude and any negative thoughts or feelings that arise. We then have a moment of truth where we have the opportunity to examine what is holding us back. As we address these self-limiting beliefs, we can come into mental and emotional alignment and resonance with the affirmation. We become energetically congruent with the vision, and that brings forth powers that are truly amazing.

Having this resonance and congruity changes everything. Of course, a positive mental attitude is not the only factor that will allow us to meet difficult goals. We have to have a good plan, we have to execute well, we have to have high trust and great teamwork, we have to work incredibly hard, we must employ lean and six sigma principles, we need the right technology and resources, and, yes, we sometimes need some luck.

The truth is that by having the right frame of mind at the outset, we enable the other necessary elements to materialize in the physical world. When we expect and believe we will achieve the goal, sometimes the elements required to accomplish it materialize as if by magic. It is not magic; it is simply how the universe works.

I am not reporting anything new here, but I believe it needs to be reiterated, especially at the end of the year when goals for the next year are being set. This is the time to create a new mindset that will allow you and your team to consistently reach or exceed seemingly impossible goals.