Are your 2018 goals artificial?

Don’t set artificial goals for yourself. ~Jim Parker (former CEO of Southwest Airlines) via Dan Rockwell

I follow other bloggers and this week I really resonated with Dan Rockwell’s ( thoughts about goals. So much so, I thought it was worth repeating.

Dan said that back in 2012, Jim Parker the then CEO of Southwest Airlines told him not to set artificial goals for yourself. We’re all familiar with artificial goals – increase revenues by X% over last year, etc. Many times these artificial goals get translated into KPIs (key performance indicators) that trickle down the organization.

The argument here is not to eliminate the artificial goals. But don’t stop with artificial goals.

Maybe you’re like me; I needed to pause and really think about the word artificial in this context. Some synonyms for artificial include: synthetic, simulated, imitation. If something is synthetic, it’s manmade. That means it’s the result of some kind of human manipulation or intervention. Isn’t that what artificial goals really are? As an example, revenues will increase by X% if the people in the organization do something differently; maybe even behave differently.

As Dan Rockwell said, “Goals need behaviors, not comfortable intentions.”

So let’s flip that goal. What if we asked, “How might you bring value to others in 2018?” If you change behaviors in order to bring value to others, won’t you be far more likely to reach the artificial goal of increased revenues?

When we personally, or as an organization, make goals for the coming year, they tend to be a list of things to do, make, provide, or a result (i.e., revenues). The goals rarely focus on value.

Here are some of Dan’s suggested behavior-based questions to focus on goals of value:

  • What can you do to make the future bright?
  • How will you bolster self-confidence in others?
  • How will you let others know they matter?
  • How will you make others feel they belong?
  • How will you help others work with others?

“Goals need behaviors, not comfortable intentions.”

Intentions are great, and necessary. But don’t stop there! What goals of value will you and/or your organization focus on in 2018?

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