Goal Setting Done Wrong


Business success is most often defined by output. Whether we are discussing our business with our accountant, sharing a friendly conversation with our customers, or explaining our work to our colleagues at a networking event, we are telling the story of success by casually bragging about positive outcomes. We love proudly reporting more sales, greater profit, expanding services, increased revenue. At the end of the day, the viability of our business, its progress towards expansion, and its impact on the marketplace is understood by these indicators of productivity. What we have produced and achieved is the hot topic when it comes to our business health.

We hold on to our performance goals by letting them go.

When these are struggling we know about it too, don’t we? It is unnerving to watch our sales faltering, our profits dropping, our services ailing, and our revenue depleting. We determine our business success by these things, so when there are problems, we feel it fast. We understand that something must be done this minute, or at the very least this quarter. When our business output levels begin a noticeable decline, we get very motivated to set goals to turn things around for the better.

It’s understandable that setting goals for business growth has us jumping to urgently grasp at the straws of these output measures, particularly if we are setting those goals in response to trouble on the homefront. We need growth? Then of course we should be setting goals to make more sales! Reach greater profits! Add more services! Generate additional revenue! We can’t wait to proudly report booming sales, profit, services and revenue. It seems logical that if we want more of these we must set our goals towards them, right?


Measures of output are nowhere near as useful for goal setting as the measurements that we can take of our input. To get our goal setting right, it is vital that we understand that our business output reflects the results of the actions that we take day by day. We can work towards increases in our business output, but first we must set goals that measure the things we need to do on a daily basis to achieve these increases. Our business output is determined by our business input, so it is here that we should focus our goal setting efforts.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals” – Zig Ziglar

The desire to make more sales in our business cannot be achieved by putting a gigantic sales chart up for display in our office or staff tea room. To have something to record on this sales chart, we must first set goals to perform actions like generating more leads, making more sales calls, or refining our sales skills. These goals must establish how many leads, or how many sales calls, or exactly which sales training … and by what date? We can measure these actions as we perform them, which means we can track our progress in real time. We don’t need to get to the end of the sales period to be able to see how we fared. While we may not know how many sales we will make by the end of the period, we can guarantee that we will not get there if we are not performing the requisite steps on the way there.

Of course, this approach applies to all kinds of goals setting. We can’t guarantee greater profit margin, but we can adjust our pricing, negotiate better supplier agreements, and add more profitable product lines to our range. We can’t control exactly how much revenue we will generate, but we can control our trading hours, our advertising schedule, our pricing structures and the time allocations of our staff.

When we set goals for input, rather than output, we embrace our capacity for powerful leadership in our businesses. We provide clear direction for our team, and we can reward positive performance before we even arrive at the increase we are chasing. Setting input goals transforms our workplaces into a buzzing hub of activity that is vibrant with productivity and performance. With this approach we literally do everything we can do to achieve the outcomes we desire.

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