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“Hitch your wagon to a star, even if you miss, at least you’ll hit the moon.”
That is what my mother secretly wrote in my yearbook my senior year in high school. She knew I wanted to be a CEO and this was her way of telling me to go for it.
It is just as important in business to create an environment where people feel supported in going after aggressive goals. That support comes in the form of encouragement, as well as space to think and experiment. In the early days of MetricStream, we were trying to grow the business over 50% year on year, not an easy feat.
The bar was high, but we didn’t micromanage every effort. People were encouraged to try new approaches and innovate. Sometimes we got over our skis by being a bit too aggressive in the market, but we also saw great and lasting innovations. One was in the form of ComplianceOnline.com, which became the largest portal for GRC professionals. Another was App studio, our toolkit that improved our ability to quickly and more easily configure our apps for customers.
As Charles Kettering said, “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” But how do you set a high bar, without overwhelming the team? The key is to be specific and break the goal down into elements that people can get their heads around. We built a plan for 50% revenue growth. We broke it down into types of revenue.
Then within each type of revenue into components by customer segment and region. We brainstormed approaches and then let the teams build plans and strategies. We then supported our front-line sales, but stating and repeating often, that “everyone” is in sales. If sales need help, they are the priority. As a leader, it feels great when people end up surprising themselves on what they can accomplish.
Set the bar high, give teams the freedom to experiment, and break a few rules. Recognize and celebrate innovations, but don’t punish each failure and mistake or you will crush the innovation. But do use failures as learning opportunities. With the right team in place, you should have many more successes than failures.
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