Sometimes I come across an article that has a kernel of real value to founders even though the article itself may be lightweight. Such is the case with the Forbes article The Most Successful People Don’t Set Goals — They Do This Instead by Jennifer Cohen. The article follows a disturbing trend these days: making assertions without any evidence or data to back them up. I read this article twice and it totally lacks anything that supports the assertion in its title.
However, the key point of the article is of value to founders: “setting objectives without intentions is a waste of time.” While you may or may not agree with the statement that follows, “Setting a goal is black and white—you either achieve it, or you don’t.” – after all with a sales objective of $XXX,XXX/yr. you could exceed the objective by 10% or even fall short by 5%, either way it’s not black or white. Other goals, like selling your company before the end of the fiscal year, are black or white, binary goals. You either meet the goal or you don’t.
But behind every goal there should be an intention. Intention implies forethought, premeditation, planning, design, and deliberateness. These are all processes. If you are the one setting a goal you need to make clear to those who have to carry it out what is the intention. If you are asked to meet a goal you should ask what the intention of the goal is. Understanding how the goal fits into the larger plan for your venture will help you to meet that goal.
Equally important is that corporate goals should be rooted in your venture’s values. I’ve written about values in the blog post Values: the bedrock of startups.
As a founder, one of your first orders of business should be defining, documenting, and communicating not just the vision of your venture but the values the company stands for. Alignment between intentions and values is critical to the success of your venture.
Another worthwhile concept in the article is the idea of responding rather than reacting. The author quotes business writer Steven R. Covey, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Far too often in startups I’ve seen people react rather than respond. This can lead to either conflict from an emotional reaction or the mishandling of an important issue. Being aware of your intentions can help you respond thoughtfully, rather than simply reacting, thoughtlessly.
Set your goals on a layer of intentions built on the foundation of your venture’s values. Like the author, I don’t have data to support this advice; but it’s advice from decades of experience as well as from my mentors.