Do Goals Make a Difference?

To start the New Year right, let me tell you a true story about a goal. It was a little goal; or at least it started out that way. It certainly wasn’t a goal that was intended to be life changing, although it looks like that will be the result.

For the next few weeks my morning workout at the gym will be tougher, as I’ll have to get to machines around all those folks who will dissapear by mid-February. It’s a new year, and millions of people will make tens of millions of “resolutions” that have no resolve behind them at all. A very few will still be at the gym in the summer. They will have changed their lives. But that’s not my story.

Last year I was working with a business owner on his seven questions. We got to the last one, “What is your personal scorecard?” Most clients pick something in the New Year’s resolution motif. They enunciate an objective to spend more time with family, lose some weight, or spruce up their golf game.

This client worked 70 hour weeks. His kids are grown, and he makes plenty of money. He probably only needs about 25% of his take-home pay to live very nicely. Most of the rest gets saved. Yet he was complaining about feeling guilty every time he didn’t put in a 70 hour week.

“This year, I am going to go out of the country for my first full two week vacation.” He was ready, he said, to start working on his guilt by making a big step. He had never left the business for more than a week, ever.

Sometimes it’s the job of a coach to be a pain in the butt. I was clearly in P-I-T-B mode that day. “Why not three weeks?” I said. “Surely if the company can survive without you for two weeks, it will make it for three?”

He hesitated, and then plunged forward. “You are right. I am going to take three weeks off!”

“Why not four?” I was pushing the limit now. “What would it feel like to not schedule your vacation around month-end, or the management meeting? What if the company had to begin, execute and end an entire monthly cycle without you?”

He wasn’t ready to go that far, but he promised to consider it. When we met again the next month he had an announcement. “I’ve just bought the airline tickets,” he said “I’m going for five weeks!”

If I didn’t hint at it before, he is a very competitive guy.

The vacation was scheduled for the fall. As it approached, he kept debating whether he should shorten it, split it, find places where he could use an office while traveling, and a variety of other tactics to make it less of a vacation. In the end, however, he and his wife went, without dragging the business along.

The company had a record month.

When he returned, he went to each manager to whom he had delegated new duties, and offered to “relieve” them of the extra work, and take it back himself. They all turned him down.

In his time away, he did plenty of thinking. He had been considering squeezing more time into his schedule for community service. Now he realized that he could offer that time freely, without keeping a perpetual all-seeing eye on the business.

He has since taken an office nearer to his home, which is quite a distance from the office. (He used to claim the long drive was necessary to help him think through what he had to do.) He’s arranged to be at the main business location only periodically. He has some great ideas about how he can apply his skills to improving the community. He is starting a whole new life, and he is excited about it.

And it all began a year ago with a simple goal to take a two week vacation.

A friend said the other day, “I made a resolution 15 years ago to stop making resolutions, and I’ve stuck to it this whole time!” That’s funny, but maybe it isn’t the best way to go.

Invite a business owner you know to read this. Maybe they could use a few goals for the coming year.

Have a great 2012! Thanks for following.

 

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