In Business There Are Good Reasons For Setting Goals – But They May Not Be The Reasons You Think
Have you heard about the study of Harvard MBA graduates from the 1970’s who set goals? Or maybe it was Yale graduates from 1953? Either way, the story goes that the group was followed up a number of years later to see how successful they’d become. Apparently those who set specific goals were more successful than those who didn’t and the 3% who wrote down clear goals had accumulated more wealth than the remaining 97% put together.
A convincing argument that just the process of setting goals is more likely to make us achieve them. Right?
Well… not exactly
It’s emerged more recently that there is no actual evidence that these studies took place. In fact Yale has gone so far as to expressly deny the study.
So… should we set goals – or shouldn’t we?
Like me, you’ve probably done your share of setting goals for your business. Annually, quarterly, preparing plans, projects, strategies. Team away-days, logical frameworks, strategic plans…. There’s a certain appeal and a definitely a certain satisfaction from this – a bit like getting all our pencils sharpened in preparation for the new school term.
But does it actually make our business do better?
Other that teaching us that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, the urban myth about these graduates has distorted the value of setting goals. It isn’t as simple as ‘set a goal and you will achieve it’. In fact the opposite can be true. Setting goals can be a distraction. Studies show that just visualising the achievement of a goal may mean that you are less likely to achieve it.
Here’s my take…
Yes goal setting in your business is a great thing to be doing. But maybe not for the reasons you think. Your goals may not lead you directly to success in the way we have been told. And maybe that time spent on setting and mapping our goals isn’t the best way to do it.
So what instead?
Here’s the two ways I think you’ll find goal setting most useful to you in your business:
1. To Do Less
Hmm, surely the point of setting goals is so that you can do more? Well no. Part of the process of setting goals is to decide which is the one or the few that are most important to you. And then you don’t need to focus on the others.
Think about it, if you did less, then you could do those few things much better. And wouldn’t that lead to better results?
So prioritise away. Do half what you think you need to be doing. Get rid of some goals. Time is our most precious commodity – save it for the things you really want to achieve.
2. So That Your Team Knows Where They Are Going
By team I mean anyone around you who is involved in your business. This could be an actual team, or your contractors. Or your advisory board. Or just your friends and family.
If everyone around you understands where you are going then they can support you better. They can help you get to where you want to be and they will be right there with you to celebrate when you get there.
Goals are good but I’m not convinced that goals in themselves will get you to where you want to be in your business – certainly not in the way we might think.
So go on, tell me why you set goals in your business and what you get out of the process – leave a comment below or send me a message on twitter @cathypresland