What I’ve Learned About Wildly Important Goals
I ‘grew up’ during a time when ‘more was more’, particularly when it came to goals. I can remember, with much pride, a time when I presented to the board 24 goals for the coming year. I felt so successful. “We have so much going on that’s valuable.” Fifteen years ago I began a journey, learning that ‘less was more.’
This month we explore Wildly Important Goals (WIGS). This is not a new term, nor one that I coined. (For a complete understanding, I would recommend the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution.) I first encountered the ‘WIG’ notion when we worked with Franklin Covey to improve our execution. Goal setting is the first leg of providing us a more focused path. I will share of few ‘kernels’ of what I learned along the way. I hope you find this exploration of value to your professional life, and to your personal life.
I received some great feedback on my last blog on accountability. One person, it was my college roommate (a big fan), thought it was one of the best things I’ve written. No, I don’t pay him to say that, but I should. Anyway, I’m glad it hit a spot with several of you.
We are entering my favorite time of the year, Spring, when the sun begins to feel warmer and the earth renews itself from dormancy to new life, at least if you live somewhere with seasons. May this time of year also renew you and your willingness to create some incredible goals!
Do your best work and be well.
Wildly Important Goals
I remember when I was first introduced to the notion that “less was more.” It was about the same time that I learned that most of what I called “goals” were part goals and a lot more “tasks.” I also learned that the brain is built to do one thing at a time, that multi-tasking was a myth. Some of you may be fast at transitioning from one thing to another, but you’re still doing one thing at a time. I suppose this is why trying to text and drive is such a dangerous thing.
About this time I began to explore the idea of having only one or two major organizational goals – the kind that if you don’t do it, nothing else will matter. Prior to that I saw our organizational goals as important, they just weren’t transformative. When I began to think in bigger terms, with more at stake, I also found my motivation and engagement increasing. When they were developed, they were the kind that left me saying, “This is awesome! Bring it on! Let’s go!” I had spent so long thinking in incrementally important goals, however, I found it hard to think big enough. It took our team a number of tries and a number of days to get to a place that it felt right.
People and organizations that are more focused get more done. Think of Apple. They have limited products. Steve Jobs taught them the discipline of focus. It’s hard, because while finding the ‘one’ or ‘two’ that are potential ‘game changers,’ you have to say no to a lot of good ideas; some may be great ideas. Most of us have trouble with that type of focus. Why? Because of all the ‘noise’ in our everyday world (Covey and McChesney call it “Whirlwind.”
There are a lot of very legitimate, necessary activities to keep our lives running smoothly, and to keep the doors open in our business. That is probably 80% of our day. That 80% often represents the ‘urgent’ in our world. It’s here, we have to pay attention to it. But, as we talked about in our piece on accountability, if you want to make significant change in how your business or your life operate, you have to make the time to focus on the ‘important.’ This is the ‘vision’ work, the 20% that will create the space for you, or your business, to become the best version of itself. The ‘secret sauce’ is the ability to have the discipline and the focus to work on the developmental pieces while you deal with the ‘noise.’ This is the crossroads of where great companies and great people are made.
Goals are those things that are derived from what we want. What we want becomes the motivation for our actions, individually and collectively. If I have a goal that is big enough (i.e., weight loss, smoking cessation, additional education, etc.) then we filter many of our choices around our life through that goal. “How will this choice help me achieve my goal of ___ by this date?” The more gap between where we are and where we want to be, the more we are motivated (if it is a true ‘want,’ and not a ‘nice to have’). When we are highly motivated, the more powerful our desire to make the best choices around our goal; the more focused we are.
It works the same in an organization. If the goal is of WIG quality, most, if not all departments/people will have a ‘line of sight’ to the goal. They will understand how they contribute to attaining the goal. One of the litmus tests for a WIG is whether the clear majority of your people have a role to play in its achievement. One of the key reasons I would feel such a passion for our WIGS is because I also knew that everyone had a role to play in what we achieved. The wildly important pulled us together as a team. We were more focused and productive. I had one of our clerical people tell me that she had never fully understood how her role fit into the company’s mission, until she saw her contribution to the attainment of our WIG. She had worked for us for 10 years!
Where is there an opportunity in your life, or in your work, to create something wildly important? What would you have if you achieved it?
Focusing on one wildly important goal is like punching one finger through a sheet of paper–all your strength goes into making that hole.