5 Super Easy Ways Leaders Use To Stretch Their Goals That Produce Great Results
Stretch goals can be a great way of pushing your company to excel while driving employees to think in innovative ways. But simply setting ambitious goals and expecting everything to fall into place isn’t enough. Today I’m going to share with you five super easy ways leaders use to stretch their goals that produce great results.
Well-defined stretch goals are meant to get you outside your comfort zone.
To push you further to achieve more and to really challenge you. They are very popular for entrepreneurs looking for fast growth. Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth, and progress.
Stretch goals are powerful. They challenge you. They grow you. They can push you past what you believe possible.
Stretch goals led us to the moon. They led Japan into building the first bullet train. They have helped business accomplish what others thought impossible. Stretch goals are goals that challenge you. In fact, the point of a stretch goal is to push you past what you think is possible into the impossible.
If you’re on a slow and steady track to success, you may be hesitant to create a seemingly far-fetched second goal that could elevate your success.
In fact, research found that success often creates risk aversion. This means that because you’re so happy about your recent accomplishments, you don’t want to risk failing when trying to further amplify your outcome. You’ve attained success, so you may consider your job to be done. So why should you ever try to set stretch goals? Why even think of biting off more than you can chew? Because the process of trying — and even failing — grows us towards personal excellence.
Stretch goals are goals that challenge you. They are the “impossible” goals that you don’t know how you are going to do it — yet.
Whatever your ambition, you have a backup plan, right? Well, throw it out. If you want to accomplish something remarkable, you have to be fully committed and stretch your goals that produce great results. Over time, I have learned that there are five things you can do to set stretch goals.
Tip #1: Keep The Numbers Aside
The focus on the number is to make the big goals feel small. And talking about numbers doesn’t actually build confidence or competence. Once you’ve broken down the goal resist the urge to make your daily conversations about the number–instead focus on consistently performing one or two vital behaviors you know will make an impact.
Using traditional fixed-performance contracts is an anathema to effective stretch goals.
The top-down target-setting process is likely to encourage managers to play it safe with incremental targets and short term gap-filling, undermining your long term strategy. For example, making a budget is an exercise in getting things minimized. You’re always trying to get the lowest out of people, because everyone is negotiating to get the lowest number. Instead, avoid these shortcomings by setting expectations across a selection of potential outcomes based on ranges instead of single point goals. Focusing instead on the trajectory challenges teams to stretch their performance.
The setting of a numerical target gets the individual to focus on the just that and nothing else.
This narrow focus both takes away from other important areas of work and blocks any creativity your team has. You will have heard of a few organizations now (Google being the biggest) who give their people up to a day a week to work on anything they wish that will help foster the company’s goals. With no targets for this activity, these forward-thinking organizations are constantly coming up with new creative ideas, a few of which become game changers in their industry. To the amazement of most, these creative ideas generate more revenue that would have been generated using numerical targets!
Being vague on purpose has its perks.
It encourages lateral thinking and innovation in the team. It also allows them to explore various channels and come up with the best and most viable solution. This means a greater commitment to improvement and excellence. Besides, don’t try and achieve better numbers as compared to the last year or the last quarter. Compare yourself to where you stand among your peers. Try and become the best in your field and make your team work to achieve their best. We need goals to make progress. But setting goals that can only be measured in numbers sets us up for added stress, pushing the intention further away.
Numbers are easy to fixate on but don’t show us a balanced picture.
By avoiding specific numbers and instead focusing on ratios and ranges, stretch goals can be framed in terms of relative improvement. Once external or peer-based benchmarks have been established, progress should be measured against them. Furthermore, it’s okay to reset a goal. Goals are set in relative terms rather than in absolute numbers so the team has the flexibility to reset their goal as they work towards it. Provided they aren’t supposed to deliver something externally, allow them to reorient themselves as long as they make a commitment to continue improving themselves.
Tip #2: Allow Room For Error
You failed, so what? And let’s say you fail. It can be easy to be discouraged. But don’t take the failure as a failure. Take it as a learning experience. If you put the time and effort into your goal, you learned a lot. You became a better person. You gained knowledge and insight. Maybe you can keep going with the goal. Maybe you can’t. Either way, don’t take it as a failure, use what you’ve learned for the future. If you do that, you never fail.
It’s okay if you fail occasionally. Don’t punish yourself for this.
Encourage yourself and give yourself a chance to reorient your goal if you have trouble achieving it. Punishing failure would just reduce morale and confidence which would affect your ability to perform normal tasks as well. Just make sure that in your attempt to achieve the goal, you have made progress and have learnt things that you wouldn’t have otherwise. See your own improvement and assert your belief in your ability to perform. Tell yourself to take risks and learn from your mistakes.
One can argue that failure isn’t absolutely necessary for personal growth.
Strangely, I do see failure as a shortcut to succeeding, because people who fail in their first attempts to achieve the same goal usually develop skills and thinking that they can transfer to future endeavors, such as increased organizational skills, humility and communication with others, patience and timing, consistency with self-care, and respecting other relationships. Most of the people I admire have failed at something in their life at least once, and more often, several times.
You can’t know everything, nor can you anticipate every possible circumstance before working on your goals.
Succeeding in important life goals involves acknowledging, allowing and even accepting that you’ll make errors, mistakes, fall short on some aspects, perhaps undershoot the mark. Senior leaders may find themselves making more errors and mistakes than they did when younger, yet they’re still able to work toward life goals and gain a measure of fulfillment from both the pursuit and completion of goals they deem worthwhile. Practice patience, both if you are older and have trouble with concentration, focus and follow-through, or if you are the adult child, sibling, co-worker, friend or neighbor of someone who’s having a tough time succeeding with their goals.
Failure is the mother of all successes. Without failure, there will be no success. Failure makes us appreciate success more.
Just like if there is no rain, you will never appreciate the sunshine. If there is no lost, you will never feel the pain. More importantly, failure is just going to be temporary. And it is how you manage failure when it comes to you that truly matters. You can fail ten times in your business venture, and you can choose to still get up and try for one more time. Some people fail once, and they don’t dare to try again. They choose to be defeated by the results they got. They choose to continue to lie on the floor and get knocked down.
Tip #3: Chunk It
Stretch goals by themselves are a great way to orient your company along long term goals, but to effectively implement them you’ll need to break them down into manageable sub-goals. One effective way to do this is to pair them with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timeline) goals.
You’ve probably heard this ‘how do you eat an elephant?’ Answer: one bite at a time.
Goals and chunking, this process is so simple. You take the large goal and break it down into smaller sizes, which are more manageable. Why? It makes it easier, more fun, motivating (as you tick of the smaller goals on route to your larger goal). Every large goal is made up of smaller parts. The purpose is to make actions less overwhelming so you maintain the confidence you can do it. As well, it gives you a better sense of achievement along the way as you complete some steps. Commitment and discipline are powerful skills for success. Commit to achieve your goals, step by step as you chunked them down. Discipline yourself to follow your schedule and make a first one tomorrow.
To start chunking you need to work backwards from your end goal.
So, for example, if your ambition is to run your own successful business, you need to think about what you need for that to happen. That may be a great product or service, and customers to buy it. If so, you need to then consider what you have to do to develop your service or product, and where you will find your customers — and so on. Each time you identify a smaller goal, see if that can be broken down into more mini goals. So, when you understand where you will find your customers, you will then work out what you need to do to reach them — and then how you will communicate to them, etc. By logically working back from everything you need to make your goal happen, you can create tasks and a timeframe.
As you embark on any new journey, it’s important to start where you are, not where you want to be — or where you think you should be.
Learn to be patient and trust the process. Get really good at the basics before you try and advance. This process of chunking gives us small wins, resulting in our brains releasing dopamine each time we meet a sub-goal. This helps keep us motivated along the way to our longer-term goals, making it much less likely that we’ll quit along the way. Setting and achieving short-term sub-goals boosts our belief and increases our longer-term persistence because doing so lets us know we’re making good progress; that’s useful feedback we don’t always get when we set only more distant, long-term goals.
TBH, I am a recovering perfectionist. As a blogger, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.
The same is true with goal-setting, especially when it comes to stretch goals. That’s why it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks. When I was a perfectionist, the goals I would write down would be the equivalent of about ten peoples work! These days I set 2 types of goals. One is a future goal which is where I want to be in 5 years. The other is a short-term goal, which I break down into this will look like on a daily/ weekly basis. Setting goals this way and chunking then out into blocks, stops me from getting overwhelmed and builds momentum which boosts my self – belief.
Tip #4: Reward Every Yard
A Stretch Goal seen in isolation can feel incredibly overwhelming. Breaking them down in into smaller goals can make them feel manageable. Just make a list of steps that will bring you closer to achieving the goal and start ticking items on the list. Based on that, reward yourself for achieving small milestones on the way. This will keep your motivation high and further encourage you to keep working hard and pushing yourself to achieve the goal.
One of the risks often associated with stretch goals is that they can be so overwhelmingly large that people don’t feel motivated to reach them.
People in high-pressure situations are more likely to engage in unethical behavior when they’re motivated by extrinsic (external) rewards, such as salary increases, bonuses and praise, rather than intrinsic (internal) rewards that help them meet their emotional needs. This certainly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use extrinsic factors to motivate your people to achieve stretch goals. However, you can make goals more intrinsically rewarding by linking them to people’s values and emotional needs and by helping your team members find the meaning behind the work they do.
What will accomplishing your goal mean to you? What will motivate you to stick to it and reach the desired result? How will you reward yourself for accomplishing your goal?
Choose something that you’ll look forward to. Depending on the degree of difficulty of the goal, choose a reward that is appropriate. But, don’t just wait until the goal is achieved to reward yourself. Celebrate “wins” along the way to ultimate success. Decide ahead of time on some “mini-rewards” so that you’ll have something to look forward to in the short term and the long term. How can you reward yourself for accomplishing the milestones along the way to the end result? Reaching a goal takes dedication and hard work. You deserve more than a pat on the back.
Your rewards are what pulls you to keep moving forward. Your rewards are the pleasures that motivate and direct you to get what you want in life.
The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t life controls you. That’s why you must choose a reward that aligns with your goal. You don’t make a reward that sabotages your goal. The next factor you should consider is if the reward you choose is going to motivate you to achieve more. Don’t pick a reward that doesn’t motivate you at all. The reward needs to at least able to drive you so that you’re looking forward to achieving it.
Deciding ahead of time what your reward will be can give you an extra incentive.
Post your goals and maybe even pictures of your rewards where you can easily see them and they will serve to remind you of what you can look forward to if you meet your goal. When you reach your larger goals, your reward should be a big deal. Think of a big-ticket item that you have wanted for a long time — a vacation, the latest technical gadget or maybe even a car! Just make sure that the reward is something realistic that you’ll be able to afford. Otherwise, you’ll be disappointed and that does nothing to motivate or boost morale. So reach for the stars and once you get there, be ready to do more than pat yourself on the back. Celebrate, then be ready to aim even higher next time!
Tip #5: Fight Resistance
A good stretch goal is one that is so ambitious and difficult to achieve that is nearing the border of impossible. It’s one that will make you feel as if you can accomplish anything should you manage to reach it and one that will push you to the very limit of your capabilities. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with setting goals that are a little more attainable, these goals don’t qualify as stretch goals and don’t offer the same set of benefits that stretch goals provide.
Ensure that your stretch goals are incredibly ambitious and challenging if you decide that setting stretch goals is something you want to do.
That said, you must understand that you are asking for a lot and expect there to be some resistance. Come up with some basic arguments to convince your team to give this goal a chance and involve them in the decision making as much as possible. If you are setting the goal, ask them to come up with smaller steps that they can use to achieve the goal. Get other departments involved and explain how this would be a mutually beneficial situation in the long run.
By their very nature, stretch goals can be unpredictable. However, there’s one thing that you can count on: there will likely be resistance to them when you first introduce them.
People may be unhappy that you have asked them to take on this enormous challenge, and there might be resistance from senior leaders who don’t want top performers used for such an initiative. Get buy-in from other managers and key stakeholders in your organization by explaining how everyone will benefit from the goal. Try to involve other decision-makers (where appropriate), so that they have a greater investment in the initiative; this is especially important for cross-functional teams, when you must “borrow” high performers from other departments.
Recognize some goals may feel uncomfortable — and that’s good.
Perhaps the best advice on reaching your life goals is to go for goals that are a little disconcerting. That is, they give you a twinge of uncertainty, even feel a bit uncomfortable. Why is that good? You want to strive to achieve goals that are yet beyond your reach. If they’re too easy, or too quickly achieved, you may not gain as much satisfaction, wisdom or advancement from their completion. That’s not to say that quickly-accomplished goals shouldn’t be on your list, just that the ones you really need to work for may be more meaningful to your life goals.
Unless you are an astronaut on a space station, your days are pretty similar to most. Maybe you’re married and maybe you’re not. But I’m sure you eat some meals and have a job. You live some place.
We automatically have this defense when we decide we want to change something about ourselves. The Resistance hollers at you and says: “You can’t do this. You shouldn’t do this. What a waste of time. Stay the same. This decision you are making is going to rob your happiness.” The trap of the Resistance is to say, “This won’t work for you. You are just plain stuck.” When a solution is offered, a meaningful piece of advice or a well-defined strategy, take a look at it and if it could work implement it and don’t shrug it off. That’s what Resistance wants; and we want nothing Resistance offers.
These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community. So now you know both the formula and some handy hints and tips to set a stretch goals and achieve it.
What impossibility are you going to pursue and chase after? What stretch goals are you going to set?
Remember, it’s okay if you have no idea how you are going to do it or get there. In fact, that’s what makes it a stretch goal. It’s going to change you and grow you. And it’s worth it. You can and will go places you may never have thought were possible before. There’s not much traffic when you go the extra mile.
Stretch goals will make you think and work differently, rather than only working harder or longer hours.
If you are looking for a great way to challenge yourself, expand your horizons, and explore your capabilities’ true limits, then stretch goals are an excellent tool to use. From forcing to adopt an idealist mindset and imagine what your ideal life looks like to motivating you to push yourself harder than you have ever pushed yourself before, there are certainly plenty of benefits to be gained when you set and strive toward stretch goals.
Whether you’re making stretch goals as a manager or you’re making them for your personal life, they should intimidate you.
If you know it’s something you can definitely accomplish, it isn’t much of a stretch. But the point of making these goals that seem so far-fetched isn’t to just set yourself up for failure. The process that you will go through when trying to achieve your stretch goal will help you move closer to personal excellence, even if you ultimately fail. Don’t consider failure to not be an option. Instead, create an avenue for learning that will help you grow in whatever area you’re focusing on.
If your goals are set keeping these tips in mind, they are sure to lead you toward excellence.
By stretching your limits and pushing just a little further each time, you can experience more personal and business success than you ever imagined. Your turn: What are your best ideas for helping your team achieve stretch goals? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.