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Why Your Audacious Goal May Fail

June 5, 2019

It’s been a busy winter with lots of projects, clients and new writing goals – which brings me to the topic on my mind today: audacious goals…and how they can fail.

Who doesn’t love being inspired by a bold vision or audacious goal?

The lure of going where no one has gone before can be scintillating. An audacious goal draws in other pathbreakers; provides a rallying cry for your start-up business or big project. Yet over the past few months, through various executive coaching discussions and board meetings, the truth revealed itself to me.

Audacious goals can be a bad idea in the real world.­­

Years ago, in their book Built to Last, Jerry Porras and Jim Collins introduced the idea of audacious goals.They called them “big hairy audacious goals” or “BHAGs”, to be specific. According to these researchers/authors, the “built to last companies,” a group of 18 visionary long-lasting companies that outperformed their peers on financial measures in the stock market, reached for the stars in terms of disrupting the market place. Since the book was published, countless corporate websites claim “audacious goals” as part of their cultural fabric; untold leaders have drawn their teams in with the promise of the promised land. ­

In my coaching with executives, I see leaders who are reaching for big ideas and bold moves. From charting a ground-breaking path in the marketplace, to testing out exciting new partnerships or aggressive time lines, to stepping into the “chief” role when you’ve usually been the person behind the chief.

The main problem: setting the big vision is the easy part. It’s how to get there that’s the challenge. When jumping into the rapids, it’s easy to get pulled down.

So how do you chart a clear course?

·  Monitor your internal dialogue. In each situation, it wasn’t just the goal that was the challenge. It was the internal dialogue the executive had with themselves about why they couldn’t do it. Instead of taking a bold step forward, they were each hiding behind more tactical operations—I just don’t have time; there aren’t enough resources. Self-doubt tripped them up as they wondered, ‘do I have what it takes to succeed?’

· Go for an experiment instead of perfection. Taking the first step is a common barrier. Don’t try to be perfect. In fact, expect that your first step will not be perfect and break off a component. What’s some small part you could try? Is there a different kind of content?  While you’re putting that big stake in the ground, what small step would get you closer to a meaningful end?

· Reach out to someone who can help. Find a coach or mentor who can help. An executive coach is a great idea, but there are already people in your network who would be honored to be a sounding board.

It’s a biological fact: we humans are vulnerable to shiny objects, which trigger associations with water, a necessary nutrient for our growth and sustainability. Audacious goals are the shiny objects and the nutrients of business. As leaders, we thirst for the fresh idea that will sustain and grow our business.

So chart the course and you will achieve that goal

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