I never seem to get where I want to go as fast as I want to get there. Does that mean I failed?
I work in healthcare, and things my team sets out to do have serious implications. If we set a goal of implementing a new chest pain protocol by July 1st to reduce the length of time from door to definitive diagnosis for chest pain patients from 27 hours to 16 hours, and the protocol does not get implemented until September, and the length of time only drops to 18 hours did we fail? Absolutely not! But if my team’s raises or bonuses were tied to those hard numbers, and therefore the team did not get rewarded, would they feel like they have failed? Of course! Such is the danger with aggressive goal setting as a leader.
On the other side, if all we are looking to do as a leadership team is put goals in place that are easy to achieve so we all get bonuses, we will constantly lag compared to market leaders who take risks and innovate. So what is the answer?
I believe the secret is all in the “aim.” If you want to hit the target of being best in class, these three tips on aiming will help you hit the mark:
The great motivational speaker Les Brown said, “Most people fail NOT because the aim to high, but because they aim to low and hit the target.” Many organizations fall into this trap. They hit their goals and make their budgets year after year, yet they fall in the middle of the pack compared to the competition. Why? They have no stretch in their goals. Nothing to make them strive and innovate. Nothing that will differentiate them from the herd. They are the organizations of which Jim Collins wrote when he talked about Good being the enemy of Great. If you want to be great, aim high!
Aim Small, Miss Small
My favorite movie of all time is “The Patriot.” My favorite scene in the movie is when Mel Gibson’s character takes his two very young sons, probably 8 and 10, to rescue his older son that has been taken into captivity by the redcoats. The 10 year-old is scared to death as his father hands him a gun and he realizes he is getting ready to shoot at soldiers. His father stops and looks him in the eye, grabs him by both shoulders and asks, “What have I taught you about shooting?” The son answers, “Aim Small, Miss Small.” The wise father knew that if the boy shot at a line of 20 red coats, they could not win. But if he focused on his small target, one six- inch patch of red cloth at a time, their chances would improve.
“Aim small miss small” is good advice in business as well. Goals need to be cascaded in a way that is focused. Let’s say there is a facility goal of making 4% operating margin (typical for a hospital). This principle would tell us to make goals focused on what the individual manager or team member can TRULY contribute to that goal. For example, housekeepers may have a goal for turnaround of rooms between patients, nurses may focus on patient satisfaction to improve word of mouth and grow volume. The business office might focus on reducing A/R to improve cash flow so we can pay accounts payable in 10 days and get a 2% discount on our payables. Decision support might commit to developing meaning financial performance dashboards for key areas, etc.
Instead, we usually see this goal cascaded to managers as “achieve budget targets” then volume drops, managers cannot bring in business, fixed costs have to be covered, budgets are not achievable, and leaders are de-motivated by their goals.
Aim to Please
The final key to goal setting is to make sure your aim is focused in the right direction. Too often our goals are focused on what is good for us personally or our organizations. Actually, that is like pointing the gun at ourselves. We all know the likely result of that activity!
Instead we need to “aim to please.” By that, I mean “to serve.” In hospitals we aim to please patients, for you it may be customers. Whoever it is your business is aiming to reach, filter every goal you consider against the question, “Will that goal help us serve?” If not, it is not worthy of your time and attention. Eliminate it and move on to one that does.