Sales people have often tried to convince me that they don’t like sales targets; that targets have a negative effect on them; that they will perform better if they are left free to just get on with things… Interestingly, the proponents of this sort of sales philosophy rarely out-perform their peers. And most eventually give up the ‘sales game’ for something a bit more familiar – a salaried role where they don’t have to set goals (nope; the boss sets the goals instead).
But I do have some sympathy for people who think they do not respond particularly well to goals. Many people believe this on the ‘outside’ even though it is not actually true on the ‘inside’. So here is how I go about explaining it…
Fancy a game of golf? Or maybe you’d prefer to play a game of football?
Let’s step outside the box for a moment and consider playing a game of golf together. I think this will be fun especially as I can guarantee that we will be able to play without stress or pressure. Why? Because today we won’t bother with greens or golf holes. We’ll just hit the ball when and where we like.
Not that keen…? OK.
Well, football then? Let’s go to the park and play a bit. I’ll get some friends to come along. And the great thing is we can eliminate all the competitive nonsense. What we’ll do is play without he goalposts.
Hmmm. Didn’t think so…
Have you ever tried it? Playing golf without a green to aim for or football without a goal to score in? It’s called goofing around. It’s mindless. It’s aimless. And it’s boring. A game like that has no purpose; no value; no benefit; and it isn’t much fun either.
Interestingly, it is very rare indeed that anyone ever hits a golf ball or kicks a football without having aimed at something first. Even as kids, playing football in the local park, we’d put a couple of pullovers on the ground to set out the goals and off we’d go. Years later, down at the golf range, we always take aim at something before we address the ball. We do it because we want to achieve something; we like to be challenged.
We tend to do things with greater effort if it has a purpose, a value, or a benefit. It is the sense of achievement that makes the effort worthwhile – and fun. And we all like to have fun.
We actually respond positively to having a goal. Indeed the desire to succeed is the only true motivation we have for trying at all. And this is what sets us apart from our colleagues in the animal kingdom: animals are content to survive. Humans want to succeed.
Animals have the Survival instinct; Humans have the Succeeding instinct.
We love being able to tell ourselves “I did it!”; “I made it”; “We won”. It is a feeling that makes it all worthwhile. By setting goals (personal or business) you are providing yourself with a reason to try; a reason to strive.
Otherwise you’re just goofing around.
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