Last week, I traveled from Colorado to Missouri along I-70. While passing a number of well-run city manager’s cities along my route, and in between watching the weather radar through the majority of Kansas, I noticed an interesting billboard.
The sign advertised a store named Yarns, and the message read, “2nd Friendliest Yarn Store in the Universe.”
Maybe the advertising is genius; after all, I am still pondering it a week later. But, I was struck by two words. First of all, comparing your business to the entire universe is lofty. But, second and most importantly, I was surprised with satisfaction and boastfulness of being second – and not just second best, the second friendliest.
Perhaps it was the proximity to my graduate alma mater, but the billboard made me think of the book, Small Giants, where Bo Burlingham explores notable companies that have chosen to remain small. Mr. Burlingham states, “It’s an axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, a small number of companies have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do…creating a great place to work…providing great customer service…making great contributions to their communities…and finding great ways to lead their lives.”
In the book, Mr. Burlingham analyzes the leadership characteristics, rationale, and turning points behind each of the fourteen “small giant” companies that he studied. Generally speaking, the leaders of each company had a choice – time and time again – and chose to stay small and create a really good product and organization that focused on the values of the company.
Your community may not be an All-American City, the largest in the metro, the highest property value, or whatever value you may place on being the biggest; however, you have a choice – time and time again – as the leader of the community to focus on the quality of your organization and your community. You have the ability to build something really great, no matter of size or prestige of your community. You can do good each day and impact the lives of your employees and your citizens.
Being a small giant allows you to define success and work to obtain it – perhaps, even by being the second friendliest yarn store in the universe.
Executive Search Manager
Peter Burchard is a multi-sector consultant, university instructor, and author. He has served as a city manager, health care executive, and as a board member for numerous organizations. He was the city manager of Naperville, Illinois and village manager of Hoffman Estates, Illinois. He served as the chief operating officer for inVentiv Medical Management in Augusta, GA. He serves on the board for the NIU Alumni Association and GreenFields-Mill Creek, a continuing care residence. Previously, Peter served on the boards of Hoffman Estates Medical Center, the Suburban Law Enforcement Association, and the Alliance for Innovation. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northern Illinois University. Reach Peter at: peterburchard.com.
Is your future filled with goals or goats?
Think about your professional development goals.
Think about your current work goals.
Are your goals more like goats?
Here’s the difference:
If it’s a GOAL, you think:
- Future Focused
- Desired Change
If it’s a GOAT you think:
- Stares Back
- Doesn’t do much
Look at your goals for work and your own professional development. Now ask yourself: “Three months from now, how will my work place be better? How will I have grown?”
If you don’t have any goals it could be because you’ve experienced too many goats.
Real goals – deep goals – solve real problems and create the work place you and others want. Goat-type goals are forgettable and just stare back because we know the goal dances around real problems. Goats like to chew on things – just like people do – as if there is no greater purpose.
Real goals create real change. Goats tend to do nothing that actually matters.
Goats play mind games and create the illusion of progress. Sadly, goat-type goals may be what we like – unconsciously protecting the status quo.
A Plan for Creating Goals and Not Goats:
Setting goals can be a waste of time when the effort doesn’t bring the real problems to the surface. (Read Good Strategy – Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.)
Personal goals may, perhaps inadvertently, just secure our present comfortableness. Real goals need to propel us forward – solving key problems and creating the future we want.
Want goals and not goats? Try this:
- Embrace Uncomfortableness: Look at your goals. If your goals make you feel comfortable then your goals are goats. James Collins writes about the curse of the comfortable work place. Create goals that create uncomfortableness.
- Surface Real problems: People have problems. The work place has many problems too. How do some of your goals speak to real problems? If none of your goals surface problems, they are goats. Our desire to be positive is also a curse when it protects the status quo and prevents an honest assessment of problems (Read Good Communication That Blocks Learning by Chris Argyris).
- Be Big! Really big!: When accomplished, what will your goals create? As Rumelt notes, people notice real strategy and goals. You and others will be excited because as a team you are 1) tackling real problems and 2) creating a better future.
- Seek Deep Personal Growth: When it comes to skills, how am I too much as I was just one year ago? Am I too satisfied with me? As an old saying goes, do I have twenty years of experience or one year repeated twenty times? To what degree am I more relevant today compared to last year? Can I prove my escalating relevance?
- See More Clearly: Test your vision – test your insight. What can you see about yourself, about your team and about your environment that you couldn’t see last year? Here is a difficult question to ask one’s self: “To what extent do I only see what reinforces the world I’ve created – the one I want to see?”
Your journey from goats to goals is packed with personal potential and organizational possibility. Let your personal resourcefulness blossom.
“Passion and Reality at Work”
One of the things that I do every year during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is to set new goals for the coming year. Admittedly, I don’t always reach my goals, and I consider it a pretty successful year if I reach 75% of them. I’m not a slave to my goals, but I do like the guidance and definition that they provide. There are lots of opinions about the best way to set goals and even on whether or not it’s really best to set goals, so I recognize that what I am going to share may not work for you, but here are a few things that have helped me.
- The Process of Reflection is Invaluable—As I make decisions about the goals that I am going to set for the coming year, it forces me to reflect, both on the past and on the future. I look at the goals from the previous year or years and ask myself things like: Did I reach this goal? If not, why not? Does it matter? Was it a worthy goal? I also look forward and ask myself things like: Do I want to continue pursuing this goal? If I reached it this year, should I set a more aggressive goal? A more attainable goal? Is there something that matters more to me than this goal? All of these questions, and more, enable me to really evaluate what I have accomplished, where I am going, and whether that’s REALLY what I want. It’s been stated that an organization is perfectly aligned to produce the results that it is getting, and the same is true for individuals. It’s likely that you are living the precise way you need to in order to reach the results you are getting. If you want to get different results, it’s likely that you need to change behavior. Reflection can help clarify that.
- Set a Variety of Goals—Don’t just set financial goals. Don’t just set work goals. Don’t just set new experience “bucket” kind of goals (life is meant to be more than one fun escapade after another!). Set goals that have to do with improving yourself, relationships, health, skills, and things like that. Set both process goals, which are things that you have more control over, as well as production goals, which can be more susceptible to outside influences. For example, the goal to clean my garage every week is a process goal. I have a lot of control over whether or not I do that. My goal to win the Rotary Club Golf Scramble is a production goal (actually, it’s a fantasy, but that’s another story). The point is that you need a variety of goals.
- Review Your Goals Constantly—I will let you interpret what “constantly” means to you. However, to me it means…daily. I know, that seems like overkill, but that’s the rhythm that works for me. There are people who say that you need to set your goals for 5 years, write them down, and then basically forget them because writing them down will cement them enough in your mind that you will essentially move toward them. To them, setting annual goals and reviewing them regularly is working too hard without getting any different result. Other people suggest setting nothing more than 90 Day goals because if you can’t achieve it in 90 Days, it’s too broad a goal. Some people say you need 5 year goals, 1 year goals, and 90 day goals. My response to those suggestions is a resounding: “Maybe.” However, no matter what your time period—I think it’s very important to review them constantly. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get off-track or to lose track.
- Schedule Time to Make Progress—Goal or no goal, most of us don’t get anything done unless there’s a set time when we’re going to do it. We live by the appointment, right? When someone says, “Let’s get a cup of coffee together,” it doesn’t mean anything unless you agree on when and where. Otherwise, it’s just talk. That’s the same with achieving your goals. You can set a goal of reading ten new books in 2015, but if you don’t schedule a time to read each day or each week, it’s very unlikely that you will reach that goal. If you just say, “Oh, I’ll read when I feel like it,” my guess is that you won’t feel much like reading much of the time.
Those are a few of the things that I’ve learned that help me to set helpful goals. I’m curious to know what some of you have discovered about setting goals. Let’s hear back from you! In the meantime—Happy New Year from SGR and Happy Goal Reaching in 2015!