Leading With Powerful Goals

Good goals are a very important tool for leadership. The purpose of your leadership is to lead your colleagues, your employees and yourself to success and to have fun doing so. And to do that, you should first clearly define success. What is success for you as a Leadwolf? What are your goals?

As a leader of the pack you have the greatest success and fun at work when you help others achieve goals that they themselves initially considered unreachable. If these goals are achieved, then they feel pride, they experience precious moments of joy, I call them goosebumps moments. And one of the most powerful sources of motivation comes from having really powerful goals.

But how do you do that? How do you determine good goals?

Here are my 5 best tips for you:

1. Motivating, demanding, meaningful:

A goal is good if it is motivating, demanding and meaningful. Of course it has to be achievable, but it has to challenge me as well. If a goal is set so low that I know in advance that I will reach it for sure, then it is weak and boring. I think goals are good and right if you do not know for sure when agreeing on the goal, whether and how you will achieve it. The goal must be achievable and be useful to your company,  to your team and to you, in that way it will be motivating.

To give an example, my former boss has taken over a new group of countries that has previously delivered about 3% growth per year. He knew the brands and was sure that more was possible. First, he convinced his team to increase the growth target to 10%. Then, he developed a simple, clear action plan for implementation with the team. They delivered more than 10% growth for 4 consecutive years. This would certainly not have happened if this Leitwolf had had the ambition to continue to grow by only 3%.

But what about reducing goals? Does it make sense to reduce goals in the course of the year if you feel you can not reach them? I think you shouldn’t! Once set, goals should remain constant. And if I miss it, I have to honestly admit that and ask myself why I missed it and how I can do better immediately.

An example from sports: Anyone interested in German football knows about the explosive nature of the Ruhr-derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04. Last year Schalke was almost unassailable at half-time being down 0:4. Almost everything had gone wrong. At half-time, the coach said clearly what the players needed to change and set a new goal: we win the second half! After a sensational second half of Schalke the game even ended with a 4:4 draw.

So: Set ambitious and meaningful goals.

2. Few clear goals, focused on business value

Ideally, you have few goals, about 3-4 big, important goals. As soon as there are many more, you run the risk of spreading your scarcest resource – your time – too thinly across too many too small goals. If you have only 3-4 big goals, then you can use your power purposefully and focus on the few projects that matter the most. Especially with goals: less is more.

In addition, good goals are clear. Which result in which quality by when? Only when goals are that clear, they can be achieved. Assuming I was in sales, then a clear goal would be: “Stefan, I need 5 new customers from you by the end of next month.” Or, if I were an IT employee “Stefan, your goal is to restore the system by tomorrow evening error-free to get going.” Result, quality and timing are crystal clear.

Good goals are aligned with and derived from business value. They are formulated to clarify the business value, e.g. € 1 million higher sales at the same cost, or the same sales 3 months faster or € 500 thousand lower costs with the same sales. In sales, aligning goals with business value is relatively easy. As a sales representative or as a Key Account Manager you often focus on growing sales and that is easy to measure. Somewhat less direct but just as possible and necessary is the connection of your goals to business value, if you work in other functions, e.g. in the IT department. Again, you should definitely fix your top 3-4 goals on business value. Because as soon as you can formulate how much more revenue at the same cost your IT project will generate, how much cost savings it allows at constant sales or how much time it saves at same revenue and cost, you have much greater prospects of support and investment into your plan.

Technically, goals should be “SMART”, i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. In addition, they should be based directly on the company strategy and not measure how much effort I put in, but what should come out as a result.

A bad example: If my boss tells me: “Stefan I need more sales. Please take care of it! “Then I have no idea what exactly my boss expects me to deliver.

Much better: If my boss tells me “Stefan, I need you to deliver 10% more sales by the end of next year at stable cost, and I would like to see your first suggestion by the end of next week,” then I know clearly what the goal is.

So: As the leadwolf, set few clear goals and focus them on business value.

3. Take ownership and define your goals

Good goals feel like your own goals. They become yours when you take the lead in defining them. You need to align them with your line manager, with your internal customers, possibly with countries, other functions and further stakeholders in your company. But you should lead defining your goals. Particularly, if there is no clear line of sight of their business value and impact, you need to invest time and effort into defining them well. For instance, if you run a function that does not have direct customer contact and is quite far from your customer, you need to define what your success looks like and how to measure it.

One way is to define your key customers, to ask them what value they want you to create for them. Have a conversation with your customers and listen well. What do they need – higher sales at same cost, or lower cost at same sales, or same sales at same cost but much faster? How can you and your function uniquely contribute to achieving these goals? Remember, any single day you work, you create cost to your business. You should make sure that the business value you create is always bigger than the cost you add to the business. How can you, your team and your work add most value to your company? 

Steve Jobs once said “We don’t hire good people to tell them what to do. We hire good people for them to tell us what to do.” And I am convinced this general attitude to good people defining the right goals for their part of the business is at the heart of Apple’s incredible success today.

So: Take ownership and define your goals.

4. Visualized

Good goals can be visualized. An example from sports. I once had the opportunity to talk to a man who dominated his sport like no other – Edwin Moses. Over 400 meters hurdles he has won more than 100 races in a row in 11 years, without any exception. When I asked him about his recipe for success, he replied that he had never run against his opponents but always against his own full potential. A few minutes before the race, he closed his eyes, imagining the best time he could run today on the clock near the finish line and then running against that time. He remained undefeated for 11 years.

So: Visualize your goal!

5. Rewarded & Celebrated

Finally, you should reward the achievement of goals and celebrate. It is right and meaningful and it increases the motivation to reward the achievement of ambitious goals. Sometimes a pat on the back or sometimes a department trip is enough. Employees just need to feel that they deserve the reward for their results and work, and that you truly and genuinely express your honest appreciation.

Summarized my 5 best tips for guiding with goals:

1. Motivating, demanding and meaningful
2. Few clear goals, focused on business value
3. Take ownership and define your goals
4. Visualized
5. Rewarded and celebrated

Thank you for your attention,
Your Stefan Homeister

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