Goal Setting On Steroids
Do people perform best when the stakes are high and the odds are stacked against them? Many, myself among them, certainly do. If this is the case, we have a great opportunity to rethink how we structure projects to consistently raise the quality of thinking and ultimately increase marketing effectiveness and ROI.
It can be argued, as I do regularly, that any creative task requires an adequate amount of time to give it justice. Ideas, at least in theory, need time to develop. Whether working collaboratively or independently, quality thinking continues to evolve. The time to actively reflect, refine and let our unconscious thought processes work their magic, should, in an ideal world, lead to better results.
But there is something about a deadline that gets the juices flowing. I am not alone in experiencing the exhilaration of over-delivering when the heat is on. My writer friends in journalism, fiction, television and film all tell me that they work much better with deadlines, self-imposed or set by publishers or producers.
There are many factors at work here, most grounded in very basic, human survival instincts. It’s sink or swim. Adrenaline surges through the body, synapses fire explosively in the brain and all of a sudden you’re on a roll. It’s a creative high, filled with feverish energy and sense of purpose you can only wish for on an ordinary day. Words and ideas flow freely and easily – thoughts you never even knew you had in you – fingers dancing across the computer keyboard, filling the blank screen with brilliance as if they had a mind of their own.
Of course, this phenomenon cannot be counted on for every person, every time. Creative juices flow differently, and I have no way of quantifying the percentage of marketing professionals who may be characterized as “Anxious Achievers” versus those who are “Paralyzed By Panic.”
My feeling is that most driven marketers – competitive people who thrive on pressure – also perform well when time is limited and the stakes are high. So why not try to capture this lightning in a bottle by imposing tight deadlines even when they aren’t really necessary?
If structured properly, such an approach can yield great benefits. I believe the key lies in high-touch, face-to-face human interaction. The idea is not simply to impose deadlines on people working independently and remotely, simply for the sake of hurrying, but rather to leverage the power of creative collaboration. The stage is set for success when your team is physically assembled for a few days to a week, focused on an ambitious but well-defined task and engaged with a true sense of urgency.
Here they will feed off each other’s ideas and enthusiasm. A friendly competition is established, where healthy egos and sense of pride push everyone to perform at their highest level.
This should not be business as usual where people can hide behind process and technology. This is just you and your ideas, where everyone is, in a sense, “naked” and vulnerable. Think of how men on base inspire the great hitters to deliver. As the stage is set for the great athlete, we too want to create an environment best suited for people to rise to the occasion.
So challenge yourself and your team. Raise the bar for achievement and impose severe, drop-dead deadlines. Demand their physical presence – and their mental presence as well. No cell phones or computers in the meeting room. Designated e-breaks can be set once or twice a day.
Think of it as goal setting on steroids for your business. These highly visible, personal commitments of time physical presence, creative honesty and expression, all concentrated in a limited period of time, can truly inspire the kind of breakthrough thinking you need to remain competitive and prosperous.