I am a great admirer of the work of Dr Steve Peters and his life-changing book, The Chimp Paradox. For those of you who don’t know, Professor Peters is a consultant psychiatrist who advised the very successful Team GB cycling team at the 2012 Olympics as well as many other elite athletes.
Reluctant as I am I have to take a very minor issue with Dr Peters. In the book he suggests that we can’t win all the time and the important objective is always to put in maximum effort and do our best.
We can’t argue with that as an aim but my query is, how do we know what is our best?
Some time ago I was inducted into a fitness programme that included some fiendish exercises to increase mobility. One of these methods of torture involved sitting on the floor, legs outstretched, and reaching forward with both arms, the resulting position being measured.
Creaking a little I attempted the best possible result that turned out to be no better than average to say the least. The instructor insisted that I could do much better and suggested that another 20 cm was attainable.
He then exhorted me to concentrate on this new mark, visualise it being attained then go for it. This I did and succeeded easily much to my astonishment.
Again the question, is how do we know our real potential unless it is tested?
Athletes use the visualising process to increase their performance and at the top level they are able to achieve great feats.
There is no reason why these techniques cannot be transmitted and used in business and indeed in everyday life. Moreover it doesn’t always need to be in physical terms.
More often we set goals and objectives that in retrospect are easily attained with minimum effort. Ask yourself does the successful achievement of your goal drive things forward or merely strengthen the status quo?
If the answer is the latter then you are in danger of digging yourself deeper into the comfort zone.
In Vistage we like challenge. Goals and objectives we consider need to be stretched if not to the limit at least enough to make their achievement significant. We use the acronym B-HAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goals (that being the clean version).
I was told a story by a colleague in the USA of a food company that was in need of an injection of energy. Turnover was around $20m and when asked for his projection for next year the CEO just added 10% because he could do that in his head.
The consultant demurred and said that he thought a better objective would be $40m. This elicited all the usual arguments against such a ridiculous idea until it was suggested that they look at it another way.
They asked that if they were to have $40m as the objective then what would they need to do in the way of resources in order to achieve it?
Please note they didn’t ask how are we going to do that? A “how” question in that context is almost negative in its intent.
After some discussion the CEO put the question to his team and they went for it. They did the analysis and failed to achieve the goal. They did however hit $37.5m and that is not bad at all.
A caveat says that if you go for a goal that is manifestly impossible to achieve then it will only create dissatisfaction. Far better to make your objectives SMART, that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.
That way the goals can be stretched way out of the comfort zone to next level. To say the least this gives a great sense of achievement all round and it proves that we don’t always know the true level of our abilities.
Vistage keynote speaker Dr Balaji Krishnamurthy says that the primary function of leadership is to release the potential in people, intentionally.
For your next project set a B-HAG and go for it after first selling the idea to the team. Then make sure that you all celebrate the eventual success.
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