Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Set ambitious goals and strive for excellence. Anyone can do average

Anyone can do average; few strive for excellence

Focusing on what you do well, and indeed what you can be excellent at, was one of the key messages in Jim Collins’ phenomenal book “Good to Great.” Yet being excellent, either in business or individually is the exception rather than the rule. But anyone can do average. Indeed most do average, with some doing exceptionally awful from time to time.

But why? Is it too much effort? Does it not occur that we can do better? Indeed, striving to be the best at something can often be an uncomfortable thought – what if we fail or look stupid in the attempt?

Setting ambitious goals does nothing but good. When I set a goal to get a distinction in my MBA I got more out of the course as a result. I didn’t achieve my goal (I got a merit on account of one assignment) but I still achieved more than if I hadn’t set that goal. I’d have loved the kudos of a distinction, but the really important bit was the learning – which my goal helped me improve.

“Good to Great” has had an impact far and wide. I see it listed as a favourite business book in many places. I’ve even see organisations state their BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), which is wonderful. By definition very few can or will be excellent, but that’s not really the point. Aiming for average is a travesty. Aiming for excellence at least has the chance of achieving excellence, providing it goes hand in hand with good planning and unfailing determination.


  1. Do you also articulate your own goals to make a stronger commitment to them, Caroline?

    I do and I find it helps.

  2. Margaret - it's a good question. I'm pretty goal-driven, but I'm also guilty of having too many goals. Striving for excellence in one area is the real key. I find Good to Great enormously inspiring, but something of a journey! Certainly "going public" with a goal is a big help.

  3. Hi Caroline,

    Goals are enormously important. I often don't set clear enoug goals and it is very difficult to know how well you are doing or not without this clarity.

    Performance and consistency are also golden indicators of future success. In my business, consistent effort makes a massive difference to success. It is easy to get distracted by a single task which lowers the amount of consistent effort you can achieve in a day, week or month.

    Interesting article, as usual!


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