targets

Making the Impossible Do’able

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The practical approach to steep objectives

Growing up in the 90’s in the Adelaide Hills the rest of the world felt a long way away. New discoveries, geniuses, and game changing break throughs seemed to always happen in exotic places a long way away. Nothing of gravity seemed to come from anywhere near me. Layer with this the apathy that came with being a teenager during the Grunge movement and the result was an attitude of impossible. When I grew up and travelled around the world, I quickly realised that people everywhere were normal people like us. They were not extra special, more talented, or cleverer.

It was an eye opener – I have the right to do brilliant things as much as anyone from Geneva, New York, or Oslo.

Grunge - full of angst and apathy

Grunge - full of angst and apathy

She had no right 1

We have recently seen countless examples of people achieving the seemingly impossible. Since writing about Ash Barty’s amazing major win (Ash the quitter), she has gone to number one in the world! We all thought it was impossible that any Aussie would climb to the peak of the mountain. Our tennis system that was apparently devoid of talent, money, and unity – Ash made a mockery of this assumption.

Ash wins the Birmingham Classic to become the World’s Number 1 Female Tennis Player

Ash wins the Birmingham Classic to become the World’s Number 1 Female Tennis Player

She had no right 2

Hannah Green, ranked 114th in the world, rolled up to Hazeltine (Minnesota USA), for the PGA Championship Major Tournament. Green went wire-to-wire (led all the way through the tournament) to win one of the toughest tournaments in the year. Green had no right to win in the minds of the “experts”. But she did. Game changing.

Sitting outside the top 100 ranked players, Hannah Green had no right to win a major tournament

Sitting outside the top 100 ranked players, Hannah Green had no right to win a major tournament

They had no right

In 2016, Leicester City Football Club (soccer) did the un-do’able. They won the Premier League. In an era where only the richest clubs win, this little club won matches. And kept winning. And won until there were no games left. It will always go down as one of the biggest anomalies ever seen in world sport. They were 5000-1 odds (NBC, In a league of their own). I am not a betting man, but I know that these are some of the longest odds in a comparable situation.

Still hard to believe. They didn’t have the resources, the squad, or the pedigree. But they did it. They achieved the impossible.

Still hard to believe. They didn’t have the resources, the squad, or the pedigree. But they did it. They achieved the impossible.

I could write for pages about such stories. And I draw on sport, because it is such a transparent workplace. Everything the leaders, players, and communities do is on show. We get great coverage and insights into what people are doing and how they do it. I feel that sporting stories relate directly to our own lives and workplaces where clear learnings we can be practically used.

This week, I shared an article by Francesco Gino on LinkedIn, written for Harvard Business Review (why curiosity matters). I am a big fan of Gino’s work on Rule Breaking. One statistic from Gino’s HBR article smacked me in the face:

70% of people she surveyed were scared to ask more questions in their workplace.

This is an alarmingly high number, but one I can understand. I am seen as an extravert with a big mouth, but I can often find myself afraid of asking questions from fear of looking dumb, even within a trusted environment of people. So, if we are afraid of asking questions, then it is no wonder that when faced with steep objectives we immediately feel they are unobtainable. How dare we question our assumptions that it is too hard?

Business Battle Lines have been drawn. Higher Up’s have laid out their strategies and they are dealing out the numbers they want to see achieved. Clients and competitors have done the same. If you are saying to yourself “that’s impossible”, then you are not alone (see my previous article on this; Tell em their dreaming). It is a natural response. But, you are also wrong. It is incorrect that ‘unrealistic targets’ are not achievable. They are. It just takes asking a few extra questions.

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Starting with the mindset that your objectives are achievable is the first step.

Secondly, throw out the rule book. We discuss Audacity as one of the critical Behaviours That Matter in my programs. A part of this is separating ourselves from what we did. The controversial author, Jordan Peterson writes “the past is dead” in his book The 12 Rules of Life. Peterson is referring to the fact that what has happened cannot be changed as apposed to the future, which is still completely malleable.

The third step is implementation. What are the habitual behaviours you can set in motion now? The first one I would suggest is to set yourself to ask more questions. Inspired by Gino’s work, we can take that extra moment to discuss, question, and go deeper into what is happening, why it is happening, and how can it happen better?

Along with remembering the feats of Barty, Green, and Leicester City we can set ourselves up to not only achieve the impossible, but set ourselves up to establish a new benchmark that could not have been imagined.

 

Learn more about Audacity and the HAT Competencies here.

Tell 'em their dreamin!

Making the unrealistic manageable

The most predictable thing in business is that people, teams, and organisations are going to be stretched. It can feel like this is unique to us, but it has been happening since the Industrial Revolution (and probably for a long time before that). The narrative tends to be ‘do more with less’. Often as leaders, we are the ones charged with the responsibility of passing this message onto the workers to execute the strategy.

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Recently, I saw Eddie Izzard, the British Comedian, who brilliantly discussed his 27 marathons in 27 days (amongst a billion other things). He hilariously tells of the experience, "the first one is hard, the second, third, and fourth are the hardest, and then after that “your brain thinks it’s in bed dreaming about the pain you are in". But, think about it – Izzard is in his 50’s, hasn’t an athletic bone in his body, yet he achieved something most of us would consider impossible.

Finding this inspiring is easy. Taking a lesson from it and implementing habitual action to take on the seemingly impossible ourselves is very different.

 

When faced with tough budgets, stretch KPI’s, or ridiculous deadlines we can allow ourselves a moment to say “tell him he’s dreaming” (a famous Aussie quote from the movie The Castle) or some kind of expletive.

 

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Then once the angst has been let out, it is time to get a game face on and prepare to get the job done. In an age when 'failing often' is all the rage, we need to acknowledge that failing to meet objectives will not be tolerated for long, and the higher up the chain, the less wiggle room there is.

 

What I have found helpful includes:

  1. Audit yourself

Do you know all of the technical elements of your role, your team’s roles, and those that relate to your client? Close the gaps through training, research, and key on-the-job experience.

  2. Tracking the right stuff?

 Just because average sale, conversion rate, and run rates are what everyone has been tracking since forever, doesn’t mean you have to. Question what will ‘shift the dial’ when executing the strategy. Track what will make impact, not what someone ten years ago thought was important.

 

3. Seize the moments

 In the movie Limitless, Bradley Cooper’s character takes a pill that opens up big chunks of his brain none of us can access. Suddenly colours are brighter, he is attuned to all kinds of details, and he feels awake in a way he has never felt before (kind of like a beautifully strong coffee in the morning 1000x). ‘Pre-pill’ is how I view most managers and executives out there. Working hard, with so much on their desk they can’t even see the 20 or 30 moments presented to them every day where productivity and effectiveness lies in their teams. The moments that create, initiate, and nudge people closer to being brilliant at their jobs and align everyone's purpose.

 The first two fixes listed above are the easiest to execute, and that is why most tend towards them first, and rightly so. Without these in place, the small moments cannot be understood or capitalised upon. The third takes courage to own up to and to develop. As Dr Brene Brown says, “we can choose comfort, or we can choose courage”. Having the courage to develop the leadership interpersonal skills, and then to practice them daily in the workplace takes courage.

 The payoff? This is where true transformation happens. Where business results are meaningfully impacted. Where unrealistic targets become achievable.  

 

Play Beyond Targets is the series of one-day Masterclasses helping successful people build rhythm into their teams. Create immediate uplift in traceable performance.