How You Think of Target Makes A World of Difference

When CoLearn was launched initially, we had some sort of growth targets for the first 2 weeks post-launch. Back then, the target that was set seemed quite lofty considering we had little to no idea on the kind of channel that would work for the product. Not impossible, but there were too little room for error given the number and timeframe we were given.

Fast forward to 3 months later, we smashed our target by several times and every 2 weeks we keep on setting our eyes on new heights. The weekly target that seemed so hard to attain back then, now it would be considered as underachieving if we don’t achieve that in 1 day.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned the past 3 months, it’s this:

How you think of target makes a world of difference.

Back then, I hated talking about target and let’s face it: We all did (or still do). Target scares us because we treat it as something we will be judged against. If we don’t achieve our targets, we feel unsafe psychologically. If we don’t achieve our targets, we have this fear of being on the wrong end of our direct reports’ wrath.

Let me tell you something: These are all valid reasons, but it doesn’t have to always be that way.

I’m lucky enough to work for a CEO who understands how to think of a goal properly. One of our values is “own your results”, which means that delivering high-quality outputs within the agreed timeline is a must. We don’t reward hard work here. We only reward results.

That being said, we treat targets as a compass on what we should do next. For example, let’s say we’re aiming to lift the second week retention by 10% in the next 4 weeks. Given to people with the wrong mindset, this will do more harm than good as they will feel demotivated by the unrealistic target.

However, with the right approach, you can turn this target into a set of action items you need to prioritize. Instead of doing 10 things with minimum impact, you will focus on 3 strategies with the most impact.

You will be much more thoughtful on how you spend your resources. You will be a lot more selective and focused on what must be done every day. You won’t get too worried on the actual target or the consequence of not achieving one because you realize it’s all nothing but noise.

The only thing that matters is not how much you’re thinking about it, but what you actually do about it. The obsession for incremental improvement every day compounds to a significant result over time.

Does this mean you will always reach the intended goal? Of course not.
Are you more likely to just fall short of the target you set to achieve? Absolutely.

That’s the beauty of lofty goals. Goal-setting is all about psychology. Your company probably won’t die if you don’t improve retention by 10% in 4 weeks, but it will be in a very good position even if you reach 8-9%.

It all starts from the leader.

As a leader, it’s important to let your subordinates know that you’re in this together with them. While sometimes it’s important to hold them accountable, they will have to see it first from you before they believe they can do it.

You have to know when to push, and when to hit the brake. You have to know when to hold them accountable, and when to make them feel safe. You have to know when you have to apply pressure, and when you have to remove some.

I’m extremely fortunate to be on both of the receiving ends simultaneously. It’s an interesting dynamic that everyone should learn if they want to be known as someone who delivers results.

Always check and align with your team on how they feel about the goals being set. Let them know that goal-setting is all about telling them what to do more than how they will be judged against. The truth is that everyone reacts differently to pressure. Some shy away from it, while others thrive when the lights are the brightest and crowd are the loudest.

Now the question is: do you know which category your team falls in?

For subordinates: It’s time to change your mindset.

Treat every goal, every target as a guideline on what you should do next. Learn to remove the noise and focus on what you can control. Optimizing for impact is all about optimizing for controllable inputs. Think about your brain as fuel.

Using your fuel for activities don’t have any value add means that you’re decreasing the fuel you can use for activities that are needle-moving.

You may share this post to your team, to your direct reports, or to anyone who may find it useful. If you have any comments or questions wrt, feel free to send them in the comment section below or DM me at @evanfabio!

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