Setting and Getting to Your Goal

Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, says that people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as the people who do not. However, 80 percent of Americans say they don’t have goals. Additionally, there is another 16 percent of Americans who say they do have goals, but they don’t write them down. Fewer than 4 percent of Americans write down their goals, and fewer than 1 percent actually review them regularly.

Thus, while it’s important for business leaders to have goals, they also need to set activities so the goals can be met.

I worked with the leader of a Business Development (bus-dev) team who was frustrated for more than a year and a half. Three years before, his CEO announced a heartfelt goal: “Let’s triple topline results, double profitability and earn a 200 percent bonus in year five.”

The goal was a stretch but not out of reach. Company sales had been strong and were getting stronger as familiarity with their new product grew. Marketing efforts were focused on reinforcing and supporting sales. Return on Investment (ROI) was measured, and their overall strategies—with a few tweaks here and there as needed—were working.

The bus-dev leader revisited the actual numbers and weighed them against the planned numbers for his six-person team. They showed they were behind in meeting the goal. Apparently, one person he was counting on to help drive the team’s success had not been fully engaged for at least a year. The leader knew this person had faced some personal challenges, but had hoped his “top gun” would come out of it.

What happened?

When the CEO set the goal three years ago, everyone was thrilled at the prospect of achieving a 200 percent bonus. Everyone on the bus-dev leader’s team committed to be accountable to and reinforce one another for the duration. While this is great, the reason a key player is disengaged is because while the goal may have been realistic, there was no plan in place to get to those results.

In order to achieve goals:

  • Everyone on the team must have a purpose. (Making money is not a purpose. It is a result.)
  • The work must be something each member is good at and enjoys doing.
  • The team must share the same values and the same work ethic.
  • They need to ask:
  • “Do we count on each other for expertise?”
  • “Do we have each other’s back?”
  • “Do we have unconditional trust?”
  • Team members must engage in activities that support goals, rather than get distracted by the “noise” around them.
  • They need to determine if they are focused on the right activities:
  • “Do we fret about the end dollar-sales every day, or do we focus on the front-end funnel of prospects and customers?”
  • “Do we meet weekly to review results?” If so, are we honest with each other or are we all talk about ‘the possibilities’ of a prospective customer versus taking a more pragmatic view, such as ‘I met a prospect with an ongoing need for a multi-million piece purchase. I have a second meeting to get to know the customer next week.’”
  • “Do we go to networking functions attended by people whom we want to engage in business, or do we just happen to like the buffet?”
  • If you want results, you must make them happen. The results you want simply won’t happen to you. Simply setting a goal and being excited about it won’t get you there. Get focused on your goals, but also focus on the realistic activities to achieve them.


  • Set timeframes to complete these activities.
  • Meet weekly to review results. Learn what’s working, what’s not, and what you need to do differently. Collaborate!
  • Get realistic and objective about your results rather than hopeful and wishful. “Hoping” and “wishing” are not strategies and they are not implementation.
  • The choice is yours!