Business goals that actually impede growth

Business goals are often written down eagerly, but many can unwittingly stunt growth and even trigger compulsive behaviour and upsets in your team. How can you avoid these goals?

There are only two types of goals business owners make: objective and subjective. The latter will negatively impact profits and workplace culture.

A subjective goal is not clearly defined and therefore can’t be achieved, like the goal to be a winner, the goal to be successful or the goal to have financial freedom.

If you ask 10 different people what their definitions of these concepts are, you’ll get 10 different answers. That is one of the characteristics of a subjective goal: there is no clearly defined end action or outcome that you can work towards.

These sorts of goals only cause frustration and disappointment because the goalposts keep changing. You can always see a way you could be more of a winner, or more successful.

A rugby ball lined up for a kick between goal postsThe goalposts on 'financial freedom' move with the movement of your lifestyle, yet business leaders worldwide continue to set these goals every year for themselves and their teams.

Self-help gurus feed the fire of these destructive goals as they use subjective buzzwords you may relate to, like 'happiness', 'financial freedom' and 'success', but fail to help people set objective targets that they can see themselves reaching, and don’t create real, permanent change for the individuals they attempt to help.

One of the biggest problems business owners face is failing to see what they’ve already achieved, which means they are constantly putting success out in the future. It’s important to acknowledge yourself when you do what you said you were going to do.

Being successful or being the best are not objective targets, they are moving destinations. These types of goals do a great job of keeping you on the hamster wheel of life. You set a goal to be successful – that means you think at the moment that you are not successful. Therefore, in your own mind, you’re not good enough. That’s a problem, so your mind comes up with solutions. It starts to set goals to go and achieve so that you can be 'successful'.

So, you set the goal to have an amount of money, a certain car, a house in a nice suburb and holidays to Europe each year. You work for five years and at the end, you have that money, the car, the house and you’ve been to France and Spain enough times that you’re sick of it. The problem is that now, you still have the goal to be successful, and have moved it into the future again.

Now, you still don’t feel successful. Your mind kicks in again and sets new goals, because you’ll really be successful when you have THIS much money, the upgraded car and the new house, and successful people now holiday in Africa, not Europe; you’re back on the treadmill for another five or 10 years.

It’s absolutely vital that business leaders choose clearly defined objective goals for themselves and their people to work towards.

Some examples of clearly defined objective goals include the goal to increase profit margins by 4 per cent within 12 months and the goal to hire two new sales staff within six months, who sell over 300,000 widgets each in the 12 months following.

There is a simple three-step test to ensure your goal is objective and achievable:

1. If you state your goal to a stranger in 10 seconds or less, can they understand it?

2. Once stated, can the stranger measure your progress?

3. In your mind, can you see exactly what the goal will look like when it has been accomplished?

If the answer is yes to all three questions, it is an objective goal that is likely to benefit yourself and the business. If the answer to any of the three questions is no, then you might be creating an impossible mission for yourself and your team.

The great thing about setting objective goals is that no matter how many goals you set, if they are all objective, you’ll be able to measure each one’s progress.

The key to achieving any more than two or three goals yourself is to have a team you can delegate to. It becomes even more important to have clearly defined and communicated targets in that case.

Mike Irving, Advanced Business Abilities Business is about people, so successful business is about building successful people, and successful people become good at achieving goals.

The more you can ensure that your people are working on objective targets, the more they will achieve. The more they achieve, the more they will feel good about themselves and their work.

Mike Irving is a business and performance coach at Advanced Business Abilities, which helps with the development of leadership and public speaking skills.

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