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A Leadership Short — Go Big or Go Home

Are your expectations big enough?

Image by the author using Canva

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I just finished my quarterly performance check-ins with my leaders and individual contributors. As part of the review, we looked at their goals.

I consistently coach my reports on the few parameters of goal setting and performance I believe are essential. Namely, are their goals specific, measurable, realistic, time-bound, and traceable to one of our organizational goals.

I was generally pleased with all the check-ins this quarter, and the team is set up to have a good year if they meet or exceed their goals. I noticed one trend, and I brought it to everyone’s attention.

Not surprisingly, I noticed a tendency to “play it safe” in their goal setting. Every goal had at least a 70% chance of success.

While I understood it, I reminded them that they needed to have at least one big goal. I called it a “swing-for-the-fences” goal. Something that, if accomplished, would catapult them to the top of the contributions list for our department. Which is precisely how they maximize their annual rewards and compensation.

When I set the department goals for the year, there are always two or three big goals that I think the group should need to strive for. It's these goals that, if achieved, drive our growth as an engineering organization, as well as our value to the company.

Without big goals to fuel motivation, organizations frequently stagnate and become comfortable with the status quo.

At that point, they might as well go home.



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Greg Sweeney

Greg Sweeney


Leader. Futurist. Father. Veteran. I write mostly about the trends and issues facing the cyber ecosystem, leadership, and workforce strategies.