Perhaps the most frustrating personality for me to deal with as a consultant is this: (Picture this with me for a moment.)
So once the client is finished talking, I ask the question, “What are your goals?”
Which is typically followed with, “What?”
So I patiently repeat, “What are your goals for this business?” Then, when I get that look, I expound with, “You said that you’re not producing as much as you should be. What should you be producing? What is your production goal?”
Then I get this:
Well, I’m friends with a guy who practices in Metropolis, USA and our town is about that same size. Oh, we might be a little smaller, but he has more competition in his area. We went to the same schools, we’ve been in business about the same number of years, we have a similar size office and number of staff. But he’s doing twice what I am.
“Okay, so is that your goal? You want to be doing twice what you are now?” I ask.
“Oh, I don’t think I could ever do that,” he replies.
Big sigh and roll of the eyes from me – even if only in my head.
Now, immediately I know this person has a self-image issue to some degree, right? (See yesterday’s post.) As a business consultant, though, I usually do not have time to address that directly. I might, if it seems appropriate and the opportunity presents itself, say something to the person privately about it and direct him or her to some reading material. But what I get paid to do is get the business on track. So I start with setting some goals and continue with my consulting process to locate blockages and create systems to prevent problems and protect assets.
The reason I shared this story with you is because it happens so often I figure everyone can relate to it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great business leaders out there who know exactly what they want. When I walk in and the person in charge says to me, “We’re trying to gross $100,000 a month but we’ve been stuck at 60-70K for the past year now. We can’t figure out what we’re doing wrong. We’d like to know if you think our goal is achievable and what we need to change to make it happen.” That’s when I know I’m going to accomplish a lot with this team.
You see, and here’s the main point, (I bet you’re glad I’m getting to it,) it’s impossible to construct a road map when you don’t know where you’re going. Oh, you can get in the car and drive. You can drive for a long time, a very long time. You can even go home at night, get up the next day and start driving all over again. But where are you going and why? Do you know? At what point do you make up your mind to stop driving around all day not knowing where you’re trying to go?
Calling in a consultant to “fix what’s wrong” when you haven’t set goals is like stopping to ask for directions when you haven’t decided your desired destination. Seriously, would you stop and ask a gas station attendant, “Can you tell me how to get to where I’m going?” Then expect him or her to tell you without asking where you want to go? (I’m back on my soapbox aren’t I?) Better yet, would you allow the gas station attendant tell you where he/she thinks you should go? I know it sounds ridiculous, but this is what I am asked to do every day. “Would you please tell me where I should be and how to get there?”
Please understand that I love helping people figure out what their goals are. I love leading goal-setting seminars. But too often in the consulting venue, business owners want me to tell them what other businesses in their industry are doing and give them a quick fix on how they can just do a little better than that. It’s the old “We just need to outdo our competitors” way of thinking.
In today’s world, outdoing the competition is not enough. If you want repeat business, you’ve got to be excellent and innovative. You should be striving to be the best and constantly changing to improve and be even better than yourself if you are the best. Why even settle for being the best when you can be a trend-setter?
“Do not go where the path may lead; go where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Why not strive to do something in your industry that no other business has accomplished or even thought of before? Something that would give you a competitive advantage and set you apart from the guy (or gal) down the street?
So are you ready to set some goals? Okay, here we go! Get out some paper and a pen.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you are on your deathbed. You are 100 years old, and you are content, peaceful, and ready to die. You are content because you have accomplished every major goal you set for yourself and your life. Take a minute or two and really think about this. You had an impact on people. You are leaving a legacy.
Now open your eyes and write down what you did. What have you accomplished over the course of your life from now until you’re 100 years old that makes you content, peaceful, and satisfied with the way you have lived? What specifically did you do? Who did you work with? Whom did you affect? Write everything down; business and personal, mindful and spiritual.
Got it all written out? Good. Okay now write down how you accomplished this. What steps did you take? Whom did you have to go through? Was more education involved?
Next, write out where things take place. Where was your greatest impact? It can be a city location, it can be specific like a university campus, or it can be more non-tangible like in your family, mind, or heart.
Now write out: Why you? What unique qualities or experiences did you have that allowed you to make this impact? Why you; why now; why these things in this way?
Now it’s time to do some planning. You’re going to write down how you are going to accomplish your goals and when each step in the process will be complete. You might have to do some research to complete this part and that’s okay. You already know what the end result is. Doesn’t that feel better? Congratulations, you now know your unique purpose in life. And you thought you were just going to set some goals! You have discovered your destiny. I’ve known people who have gone through this process and cried for hours. That’s okay. It really should be that deep. If you’ve never dealt with any of these thoughts or feelings before it can be very emotional. Some people don’t cry and that’s okay, too, but it should have some effect on you if you’ve never completed the process before.
I believe that is why some people stay away from goal setting. We know our goals should relate to our mission in life, and that’s an emotional thing to think about. It is so deeply personal and most of us don’t want to go there.
I’ve heard all the excuses. I’m too busy working to try to achieve something and make something of myself I don’t have time to set goals. I’ll know what my goal is once I reach it. I just want to make money, that’s all I care about. I just want to live comfortably and be happy. I just want to please my spouse/mother/father. I can’t make my own choices so why should I strive for something I can never achieve?
All of these comments come from a place of fear. Some people are afraid of the responsibility of living up to their destiny. They know they are destined to be great people, but they’re afraid of what that means. Some people are afraid of accomplishment. “I want to make a million dollars, but what will my family think or say about me if I do?” Some have tried setting goals in the past and either failed, or had a bad experience. Pope John XXIII said, “Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
I want to challenge you to do this: Pretend that when you wake up tomorrow, you will have amnesia. You will not remember anything about your past. You will know your family and friends and you’ll know what you need to do and where you need to go to work, but all your personal past is gone – completely wiped from your memory. All you have is your hopes and dreams for your future. How do you think that would change your life?
Until next time,