I’ve been thinking a lot about vision and goals lately. As the incoming president of my business networking chapter, I’ve been meeting with the outgoing leaders, my leadership team, our regional leadership, and other strong leaders and leadership coaches within the organization, as well as talking with other leaders (not to mention the guidance and advice available from so many in books and online….). I keep pulling back, looking for simplicity and clarity….an awareness of the possible while casting my thoughts wider to “Why?” and larger destinations and possibilities.
The idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals is pretty well known. As a review, S.M.A.R.T. stands for:
- Specific – Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you’re going to do.
- Measurable – Goals should be measurable. In this way you have tangible evidence that you’ve accomplished them. These can include the Big Goal measurement as well as measured milestones.
- Achievable – Goals should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough that you can actually achieve them.
- Results-focused (or Relevant) – Goals should measure outcomes, not activities.
- Time-bound – Goals should be linked to a time-frame of some kind that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the desired end-state. Keep in mind the Achievable aspect of the goal when setting the time-frame, of course.
Vision is a different kind of animal. Very different. Setting a goal for monthly sales or post engagement on Facebook for the quarter is not a vision. When building goals we tend to look at the recent past as a starting point and build on that (or, if starting something new, look at a similar process, product or business, try to extrapolate an “oranges to tangerines” comparison…not exact, but close enough…). Creating an effective vision means freeing myself from my existing reality and think broadly of possibilities and destinations. This is not “pie-in-the-sky” dreaming, but a deep look at an ideal future. Several writers I have come across lately use Dr. Martin Luther King‘s “I Have A Dream” speech as an example of visionary leadership. While his goals within that speech included a number of the steps that would be needed to make headway toward the vision, the vision was So Much Bigger. He described exactly what the American scene would look like when the full impact of his goals were felt and implemented. One famous section is:
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
In your mind’s eye you can see what that looks like! It is so much more grand that the end points of a number of goals.
Goals may be ambitious by themselves. A big one mentioned by another writer was when President John F. Kennedy committed the country to placing a man on the moon and returning him by the end of the 1960s. Huge Goal! But what came after? Other than getting there and back again, what else was there? Hence the problem of coming up with a compelling vision for further space travel and exploration (although a number of futurists, respected scientists and writers try). There is, at present, no strong, heart-stirring vision for exploration and travel that we can, as a society, turn to and say, “That’s it! Let’s go!”
Apply this exercise to your business. When you sat down and created your business plan, you undoubtedly created goals, milestones, and outlined some measurable processes to reach those goals. But, speaking to your vision, why are you actually in business? What does your community, your industry, your world look like as a result of you having created this business, provided what you provide to your customers, and spent so much time and so many resources on its success?
Is your vision a “shining city on a hill”? You can make it so.