Goal Seeking

Eleven years ago, Jim Collins wrote a book. “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.”

Its premise is that it is easy to be satisfied with good. Progress towards great stops once success has been achieved. In his words, “Good is the enemy of great.” He points out that our schools are good but not great. Our government is good but not great. In his view, they are not great because they are good. How strange?

I suppose it is safe to say, every institution, almost every business and almost every one of us is good but not great. It is because our goal seeking program is broken. We use this process. Set goal – Work at it – Achieve goal – Drift

Sometimes we set the wrong goal but usually we set a goal we know we can reach. Once we reach, it we fail to up the standard. Instead, we find a new achievable goal that does not build on the one we have just achieved or worse, we do nothing. Rest on our laurels.  How does that come to be?

Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing those around us, fear of work, fear of commitment, fear of being held to a high standard, fear of being different.

You may notice a theme here.

What to do about it?

First of all get over the “good enough” thing. If it is worth doing, it is worth being great. My wife is the best at this. She can do nothing by half. Our children have come up with a rule that describes her efforts. “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” Despite that possible flaw, I have never heard any of them complain that Thanksgiving dinner was inadequate. Same thing the year she ran the United Way fundraising campaign. Largest percentage increase of any United Way campaign in Canada. Nearly double the amount collected from the previous year. Whenever we moved, every box was unpacked and put away before the day was done.

You need to be careful what goals you choose. You cannot be this intense with more than a few goals. Choose carefully and refuse to commit to things way off in the future. They will not be welcome when they arrive on your to do list.

Most of all, you will find that having too many goals means you soon discover that not only is good the enemy of great, but better is the enemy of good.  A little work on many goals is wrong.  Better is temporary. Better is not a solution. Better is not a goal. Better is a trap. If you have too many goals, you will need to settle for it.

You need some skills to make “great” work. Principal among them is you need to be able to delegate effectively. All of the things you cannot commit to still need to be done. Just not by you.

The Plan:

  • Decide what you value most.
  • Set goals in that space.
  • Assign all other objectives to others.
  • Review and Reset

If only it was that easy. {Sigh}

But you have to start somewhere.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. don.s@protectorsgroup.com

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