We spend so much of our lives as entrepreneurs hunting for opportunities. What if new opportunities become the very thing that distracts us from our true goals? I’ve seen many talented business leaders and employees, myself included, wind up led astray by opportunity.
This is an inherently challenging situation to recognize. It means we need to know when to say no to something, which is the opposite of the “say yes to everything” advice we get when we’re young, ambitious and hungry for the first rung of just about any ladder.
Checking in with personal goals is one of the best ways to chart your course clearly. It helps you know when it’s time to say no.
How Misaligned Opportunities Have Distracted Me
After my first business venture gained a serious foothold, I found myself surrounded by potential opportunities. One that began years ago, but that I still find myself looking for a final resolution to, has to do with an order of steel. I found an extremely bargain price on an order of prime steel and was certain that it would be worth it eventually. But it didn’t fit into what I was doing.
Now I have this steel and I have yet to resolve the best way to use it. The problem was that I saw an opportunity and jumped on it without checking in to see if it aligned with the goals of the company as a whole.
Different versions of this setback involved companies I had a chance to buy, like a Range Rover dealership and a freight company.
As a leader, you need a clear distinction in your mind between diversification that makes you more robust versus diluting your attention over disparate projects.
Why You Need Deep Familiarity with Your Teammates' Goals
Knowing the goals of your teammates helps make sure they are aligned with the overall mission. Sadly, there are many managers and leaders who don’t take the time to get to know the true goals of their employees.
This might be acceptable in the short term, but people who live in a way not aligned with their true desires for too long often experience burnout. You might encounter sudden resignations from these types as well.
These are preventable problems if you know where each person on your team wants to go, whether that goal includes higher earnings or more time for family.
How to Begin Using Personal Goals in Business
You can begin integrating personal goals into your business in three easy steps.
1. Write down your personal goals. Sometimes, our goals are non-verbal instincts and feelings. Forcing ourselves to articulate them in writing clarifies what they really are.
2. In writing, ask, "Where do my business goals and personal goals overlap?" You'll be surprised at how the simple act of writing introduces creativity to your answers.
3. Have your team do the same exercise. Note that you should hand them a worksheet that clearly states the company's goal.
You may be surprised how often people can work at a company and never ask that question. In my experience, the bigger the company, the more common this is.
Finally, collect the worksheets and start getting creative when looking for overlap, cross-training and integration opportunities.
These written answers are your road map to a company where your teammates' personal goals are aligned with the company mission. Don't be afraid to retrain, cross-train or reorganize people.
How Steering via Goals Is the Solution to Misalignment
Whether you’re trying to avoid opportunities that will lead you down the wrong path or misaligned employees who are destined to burn out and leave, discussing personal goals can keep you and your team on the right path.
It is likely to feel scary the first time you're presented with a brilliant opportunity but you turn it down due to a lack of alignment. However, you can get further by moving in a more unified direction than by charging off after shiny objects. You and your team have limited bandwidth as well, so it’s wise to protect how that resource gets used.