Recently I was working with a leadership team of a professional services firm that has set a bold growth target for their firm. We were reviewing progress almost one year into the five year period.

On the surface, there was agreement…  Everyone could quote the target – even using the same language – $Xm revenue in 5 years. During the discussion, one director became frustrated because it seemed to him that his peers were reneging on their commitment.

To me it was obvious that while there was ‘agreement’ on the target, they lacked alignment on the working definition of ‘target’. I asked ‘what does target mean to you?’ and the responses included:

  • the minimum accepted standard
  • something we aim for, but not if it kills us and isn’t sustainable
  • the figure that underpins our dividend structure
  • a number that guides our strategy and is part of the game
  • an indicator of my worth – if I don’t hit it I am a failure

George Bernard Shaw famously said ‘The single biggest problem of communication is the illusion that it has taken place’. Yep – they thought they had communicated about targets…. Hmmm – not really.

It’s not communication until everyone has the same understanding. If conversations in your leadership team are becoming circular, check for alignment on meaning.

And if you want to hit your growth target, make sure you have agreed on the notion of ‘target’ before you agree on the specific target.

Go Fearlessly


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