Hit the target, miss the point

22nd November 2022

When Child #3 was five years old, she used to panic when out of her depth in a swimming pool.

To stop her panicking, we kept things nice and simple for her: “with swimming, there’s only one rule – never panic.”

We thought that, if she didn’t panic, she’d always be able to calmly swim to the side, ask for help, etc.

A few days later, a pool attendant threw a diving brick into the pool for her, and asked if she could swim down to get it. So she dived down, and was under water for longer than I expected…

…so I pulled her up. And she was gasping for breath.

I said, “If you were running out of breath, why didn’t you swim back to the surface?”

Her reply? “You told me there was only one rule – not to panic. And I didn’t panic.”

Ah, children…

So we quickly told her there were now two rules: (1) Don’t panic (2) If you’re struggling for breath, swim to the surface!

Why tell you this?

Because, so often in business – and in life – we hit the target, but miss the point. In other words, we achieve the thing we’ve been asked to achieve. But that thing isn’t the most important thing. For example:

  • Many salespeople are tasked with “make 50 calls this week”. But, you could easily hit that target, and have 50 dreadful calls… which is entirely missing the point of making the call in the first place
  • Or someone might organise a meeting, state ‘it will last exactly one hour, and cover agenda items 1-4’… well, we can easily hit that target. But was that really the point of the meeting? Surely, the point of a meeting is the actions and agreements that happen as a result of it

The common elements to both? The targets were based on inputs, not outputs. Make 50 calls. Have a one-hour meeting and discuss these topics..

But the point of each of these are the outputs – make some sales, agree actions/make decisions.

Remember, people RESPECT what we INSPECT. Are we hitting too many (input) targets, but missing the (output) point?

That’s why, when I write Tuesday Tips, I always end with the Action Point. Which is the output of the Tip. Because I know that what I say (the input) isn’t that important. It’s what you do with it (the output) that matters.

Talking of which…

Action Points

  1. Review your targets – do they focus on inputs or outputs? What changes could you make, so they’re better?
  2. Review your team’s targets – same thing: are you focusing on their inputs or outputs? What would make them more effective?
  3. Review your communications – is there a clear output (call to action) at the end?

Please do this! It’ll mean my Tuesday Tip had a point!!

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