Reach High…Achieve More

“We make ourselves according to the ideas we have of our possibilities.” V. S. Naipaul

In this time of goal and resolution setting, thoughts turn to the subject of the targets organizations set. When I am working with clients I often hear myself asking, with not very subtle disgust: “That’s your ten-year target?”

This leads to several different reactions from leadership teams. Sheepish chagrin. Defensive explanations about why it really is a big target. Puzzled faces asking how they can justify a larger target. And occasionally a bit of anger at my pushing them so hard.

I justify my disgust/pushing by explaining what I know to be true from decades of experience. If you set a low goal, you reach a low goal. But if you set a really big hairy audacious goal as Jim Collins calls it, you achieve much more than you initially thought possible.

To reach great heights, you have to believe your possibilities are great. And if you believe your possibilities are great, you become someone who can achieve high targets. If you then lead your entire team into believing in great possibilities, you will guide your entire organization to also reach high targets.

It all begins with you believing you can do it. Let me give you an example.

I have a client that is a professional practice. When I first started working with them, I asked them to set their 10-year target for the business. They presented a nice comfortable growth path but nothing spectacular that would really stretch them. So I pushed them to make it bigger and bigger. We discussed what would be required to reach the target, what this would look like.

The leadership team got more and more excited as we painted this picture. They came to believe that yes, they could reach what they initially thought was an impossible target, the possibility was there. They finally settled on a goal that would make their practice one of the biggest and most successful in their field, recognized as an industry leader.

Everyone would have to be fully engaged with this new vision. So the next step was sharing the target and their enthusiasm for it with their entire organization. And then they shared with everyone the tools they would need to achieve the target and taught them how to use them. It was a fully integrated process with laser focus on achieving this10-year target.

A few years on, the practice is ahead of the annual goals they initially set and well on their way to becoming even more successful than they imagined. Each time I see them they tell me that the previous month was the best month they ever had. They continue to grow rapidly while profitability stays high.

Sometime this year we’re going to revisit that original 10-year target that seemed so huge. The leadership team’s view of their possibilities has expanded and they’re considering aligning the company with an even bigger target.

Of course, reaching big hairy audacious targets is hard work. You won’t always succeed. But you will achieve more and get further along than if you only imagined you can reach a small, safe, easily reachable goal.

And again, it all starts, as the Nobel Laureate tells us, with believing in your possibilities.



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