How to redefine your business goals in uncertain times

Woman participating in virtual facilitation session
Dr. Jo North – working from home

Several months into the year, and New Year resolutions and business goals are quickly forgotten. But at the time that I am writing this – March 2020 – we are experiencing unprecedented world events with the advent of Covid-19.

Here in the UK we had thought our greatest challenge was going to be Brexit – that, combined with a pandemic that’s nothing like our generation has seen before, is creating massive opportunity for some businesses (loo roll and hand sanitiser manufacturers, food businesses with home delivery) and incredible pressure and anxiety for others.

Unless we are key workers, we are locked down. Quite rightly working from home to protect each other  – although still interconnected thanks to video conferencing and social media.  Whilst home-schooling and caring for others is likely to be an additional responsibility for many people, there are some of us for whom this period of social isolation creates time, space and opportunity to really think about and redefine what’s important to us, where we want to be and adjust our goals accordingly.

There’s an opportunity here to create massive progress on those goals in the coming weeks, by spending some short, highly focused time on them each day.

How to Redefine your Business Goals

So I wanted to provide you with some inspiration and an activity that will help you to redefine and progress your business goals. 

This blog is a super mini taste of my  Idea Time programme, now available on Kindle. Idea Time has directly supported a range of business people from all kinds of industries, businesses and backgrounds throughout the year to accomplish their goals. These included:

  • Saving tens of thousands of pounds through improved procurement and supply chain.
  • Successfully establishing several new business ventures.
  • Attaining fast-paced growth through an even higher performing team.
  • Identifying and achieving an accelerated career development plan.
  • Delivery of challenging projects on time, on budget and to standard, and satisfying the diverse needs and agendas of a varied stakeholder group.

Now it’s time to get started on thinking about and redefining your business goals, especially in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and thinking about what you would really like to focus on over the next 12 weeks.

Give this a go – I’d love to hear how you get on!

Idea Time

This is a hands-on exercise to get you started and should take between 10-15 minutes. You will begin by getting as many of the thoughts, ideas and challenges that you have coming up onto paper so that you can see them visually and prioritise where you’d like to begin.

Work intuitively, relax and have fun with the process. You might want to use a specific notebook or folder on your computer to keep your work so that you have it all in one place.

Imagine 3 months ahead of today. What do you want to have achieved and benefited from during this time?

It’s time to think about your business goals.

Messy Challenges

Some challenges have straightforward solutions: To achieve X we simply need to do Y.

But most leadership and management opportunities and issues are not so clear-cut. We could be presented with a range of options, none of which are ideal, or something around us is changing in a way that we haven’t experienced before. In the fast-moving world of work, we often have to make decisions and take action with foggy or incomplete information in situations where doing nothing is definitely not an option! In innovation terms, these are known as “messy” or “wicked” problems or opportunities.

Navigating through and delivering against these successfully is of course what we, as managers and leaders, are there to do, so the more effective we can become at it, and the greater our competence and understanding of what we intuitively process as professionals every single day at work, can add real value to personal leadership, and therefore team, performance.

So, over these coming 3 months focus on something “messy”.  Your own work may be similar to the examples below, or completely different, it doesn’t  matter either  way. As long as the answer isn’t obvious or clear-cut, it’s a messy challenge.

A Challenging Business Goal

Think about creating a stretching, challenging and yet achievable business goal that you can achieve with focus and different thinking, and is something that you can get done with current restrictions and challenges. Your business goal will be a statement – or question  – that concisely communicates what you want to  achieve by tackling your messy business goal.

Examples of ‘Wicked’ or ‘Messy’ Business Goals

Here are some examples of “wicked” or “messy” business goals:

  • My team’s performance looks like it should be great on paper, but for some reason we aren’t delivering in the way that I had hoped with remote working in place.
  • The market is changing fast and our sales have dropped off. We need to start a new growth curve.
  • I want to change the direction of my career but am not sure what I want to do and how to make the change.
  • How do I develop the capability within my team to pursue the new opportunities that are coming up, especially when we are all working from home?

You probably have a range of potential business goals that you’d like to tackle. Focus will be important, though, because if you have too many business goals on the go at once, your efforts and effectiveness could become diluted. So it’s better if you can select one business goal that you would really like to get done over the coming weeks.

By definition, messy business goals are multi-faceted. This means that you might want to work on different aspects of your BHAG as you work through the programme and make headway with your solution.


4 Key Features of a Great Business Goal

Collins and Porras identified 4 key features of a great business goal.  These are:

  1. Aligned. To be transformational and successful, your business goal will work best if it is consistent with your overarching desires, aims and objectives.
  2. Audacious. Your business goal needs fresh approaches and different thinking.
  3. Articulate. It needs to be clear and describe a straight forward target outcome.
  4. Arduous. A good business goal is motivational and inspiring because it provides an appropriate level of stretch that requires you to go somewhat beyond your usual way of thinking.

Idea Time – Redefine Your Business Goals

Your first step now is to begin to redefine your business goal for the next 3 months and map out what is looks like.

Allow at least 10 minutes for this activity. You may wish to spend longer on it, or perhaps revisit it after a few days – all of which is great. A lot can be achieved in 10 minutes, so give it a go and see how you get on.

The reason I’m suggesting that you use this technique is to open up your thinking, and to begin to frame challenges as a positive and motivational possibility.

Step 1:

Spend just a few minutes completing the following statement as many times as you can with real items relating to your work context:

 Wouldn’t it be fantastic if…

 Jot your thoughts down here – see if you can think of at least 5 things.

1.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

2.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

3.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

4.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

5.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

Do add more if you’d like to go beyond 5 items

Step 2:

Select the statement from Step 1 that would make the most material difference to your individual, team or business performance and that has the potential to become a motivational business goal for the coming weeks. You might have a couple or more of connected statements that you want to combine into a single business goal. If so, that’s completely fine.

Write down your selected statement.

Step 3:

Now add these things into your statement:

  1. Your personal strengths and the tools that you have that will help you to achieve your business goal.
  2. Any hurdles that you think might pop up.
  3. Any questions that are in your mind about attaining your business goal.
  4. Finally, note down the people, opportunities and things that will support you on the journey.

Take action on your business goals!

If you’d like to get in touch by phone or email, I’d love to hear about your business goal, and will be really pleased to offer any tips or additional insights that might help.

If you’d like some personal, free one-to-one business support, please do check out my free Creative Reset 2020 programme, which I launched earlier this month to help any business owner who would like some help with clearing their head, making good decisions for their business and getting back to feeling empowered to move forward again. You can find more and sign up here

Dr. Jo North