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.


Dealing With Discouragement

August 30, 2014

Investment concept, close up of female hand holding stack of golOne of my favorite authors is Napoleon Hill. I have studied his work for many years, because my observation is that nearly all of the self improvement philosophers in modern times owe the basis of their techniques to fundamental truths uncovered by Hill back in the 1920s.

In 1908, Napoleon was commissioned by the great Andrew Carnegie to spend the bulk of his adult life working for him for a salary of zero. What Carnegie did offer to Napoleon Hill was to introduce to him all of the great leaders of that period for the purpose of learning and capturing their philosophies of life and leadership so that they could be made available to the common man.

The resulting book by Napoleon Hill in 1937 was Think and Grow Rich. Actually, Napoleon wrote a total of 11 books and did several audio tapes of his ideas. My favorite program is The Science of Personal Achievement: Follow in the Footsteps of the Giants of Success, available through Amazon and Nightingale Conant.

I have received infinite benefits from studying and applying Napoleon’s ideas in my life. One of the most useful is how to deal with discouragement. He wrote that when you have a time of great failure or disappointment, there is always a seed of equivalent benefit involved.

He said that our job is to find that seed of equivalent benefit and focus on that because soon our disappointment will turn to gratitude and joy.

What an amazing gift to have a specific process for turning our darkest moments into victories in our lives.

I continue to apply this technique, and while not yet perfect at it, I have found it works well in nearly every case thus far.

One example is when I wanted a particular job. The opportunity occurred after the completion of my main career, and I was doing some consulting and writing. The job was to work in a large organization helping to teach leadership to developing executives.

I really liked that idea and felt it was right for me to pursue the job. I worked hard at the application process, but in the end was not selected for the position. I felt deflated and depressed. Not only did I lose some welcome income, there was no opportunity to influence the leaders in that organization. I was miserable, but set out to find an equivalent benefit.

Reflecting carefully on the opportunity, it became apparent that I would have been extremely unhappy with the job. It would have required me to be away from home for about 30% of the time (which causes me great stress), and I would be forced to teach leadership from someone else’s script with firm orders to stick to the material.

I am an excellent teacher of leadership, according to my former students, and the reason is that I speak from my own experience and in my own tongue. In the past when I was forced to teach the materials provided by others, my performance was acceptable but not excellent. The inspiration was missing.

Shortly after my rejection, my elderly father needed to move out of his own apartment into an assisted living situation. It took me about 4 months working hard to accomplish the move and get dad situated for the rest of his life.

If I had gotten the teaching job, I would have been unable to serve my father’s needs and would have likely died trying to accomplish both tasks.

Looking back, it really was a blessing that I did not get the job. There were many benefits from not getting the position. The passage of time revealed them to me.

The tricky part of applying Napoleon Hill’s advice is to focus energy on the seed of an equivalent benefit at the time when we are down. That can be hard to do.

The genius of his advice is that by having faith that there is a benefit yet to be revealed, it takes our focus away from the depression and greatly accelerates the pathway toward feeling great again. It really works, and if you will just try this technique, you will find the quality of your life is significantly enhanced.

This method will not prevent unhappy things from happening in your life. The cosmos has a few curve-balls to throw at each of us every year. That is just the way things are.

When you follow Napoleon Hill’s prescription and look for the seed of an equivalent benefit, you vastly increase the chances of coming through the low times with less pain and more joy. What a blessing that is.