Michelangelo offered that advice about 500 years ago, but I think we have to be a little bit careful how we apply it in our businesses.
Clearly, setting goals that can be achieved at a walk is a bad idea. People don’t get much sense of accomplishment when the goal is too easily reached. On the other hand, setting goals too high causes another problem. People will quickly discern that goals are set absurdly high, they will become discouraged, and again they will be robbed of a sense of accomplishment.
In his excellent book, “CEO Tools,” Kriag Kramers offers an answer to this dilemma. He recommends a rigorous budget process whereby goals are demanding, but achievable. Then he suggests setting some big, over-the-top goals while clearly communicating that it’s OK if we don’t hit them. After all, we did hit our base budget goals, right? So everyone can take get a sense of accomplishment from that even if we go no further. But if we do go further, we can offer some really exciting incentives because we’re now playing with money we never expected to have in the first place.
So it’s really a perfect solution. We set tough but achievable goals so that everyone can take pride in that accomplishment, but then we set some over-the-top goals, acknowledging that we probably won’t hit them, thereby eliminating any sense of fear or guilt or failure. And by the way, once you get into the over-the-top goals, have fun with them! Make it a game! Challenge one another! After all, at that stage, you truly are playing with found money.