Why People Fail to Achieve Their Goals

The four reasons why and what you need to do

Most people and I assume that you are one of them, know the importance of having goals and goal- setting. Setting goals gives you something to strive towards and boosts your self-confidence when you achieve them.

But do you set goals and pursue them? Research suggests that 80% of all people never set goals for themselves; furthermore, of the 20% that do set goals for themselves about 70% fail to achieve them. In short, only six people in every hundred set and achieve goals for themselves!

So why do people fail to achieve their goals?

There are four key reasons that underpin this. These include:

1. Setting goals that are too low – people tend to set goals that are easier for them to achieve rather than harder goals which are more demanding or which will take them outside their comfort zone. As a result, they are not motivated sufficiently to achieve the goals and them under-invest in what they need to do and how they do it. As a result, people set themselves low goals which they fail to achieve – hardly an inspiring level of performance!

2.The planning fallacy – this is when people underestimate the amount of effort, time, resources and energy that is required in order to achieve the goals. So they find that what they have to hand and with which to achieve the plan is insufficient. In these situations, people lack persistence and often give up or make excuses for themselves.

3.Optimism bias – people tend to be too optimistic in terms of how easy it will be achieved; this, in conjunction with the planning fallacy, results in people developing plans on an overly hopeful basis. These plans then quickly fall over when an unexpected event occurs, or progress does not occur as expected; this puts people on the back foot and they become reactive focusing on trying to catch up on an unrealistic plan.

4. People look to compete, not dominate – your goals are in place to help you achieve your strategy. The strategy is not about competing against your competition, it is about winning – and to win you must dominate your market. If you just compete you are looking to beat your competition, not dominate them.

Four Steps for Achieving Goals

  • Set Your Goals – it may seem obvious, but you can’t achieve goals unless you know what they are.
  • Make your goals significant – don’t go for 10% over what you achieved last year that is just an incremental improvement. Go for something really significant; improve by a factor or two, three, four or more. At worst if you underachieve on a much larger goal you will have achieved much more than on an incrementally larger goal, at best you will be on a much higher level.
  • Take non-stop action continuously in your efforts to dominate.
  • Once you start to achieve your goals then step up your level and intensity of effort.

Once you have your goals in place then pursue them. Don’t make excuses for failing to achieve your goal that just wastes time, effort and energy. It may be easier and safer to do nothing, but if you want a life that is worth living then challenge yourself and go beyond your comfort zone; set yourself challenging goals and pursue them with single-minded determination and effort that outpaces those around you.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here. 

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Why Is Coaching Becoming More Popular?

Why Is Coaching Becoming More Popular?

What is driving the uptake of coaching, and what are its benefits?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Organizations are increasingly using coaching as a means by which to grow and growthandsupportdevelop their people and businesses. What is driving this growth?

For one thing, the ever-increasing pace of change requires organizational leaders to develop quickly, and in the context of their current jobs. Traditional training programs are often set up to train or educate large numbers of people, but not to focus on a specific individual’s development needs. Coaching offers an individualized development option without removing leaders from their work.

Second, the war continues for leadership talent. As the hunt to find and retain talent intensifies, many companies have viewed coaching as a way to compete in the marketplace to attract and retain that talent.

Third, organizations find that the feedback gained through coaching seems to stick better, and leaders liked the opportunity to work with an unbiased external professional. More leaders, as well as many intact teams, have found the coaching process helpful for their development—and as leaders grew as executives, they look to develop their reports and cascade the coaching process to them in turn.  This creates leverage and synergies over and above those realized from just coaching the leaders.

Coaching is used to assist high-potential or high- performing leaders, rather than those experiencing performance problems. Today, name-brand organizations such as Dell, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, and Unilever have large managed coaching programs serving countless executives and use pools of highly-screened coaches, in all parts of the world.

Coaching is also moving internally, with many organizations using external coaches to train internal practitioners to coach their leaders. This approach is especially useful for companies who view their organizational culture as highly unique, and are looking to build this into their culture and develop the necessary in-house capabilities.  Internal coaching is most frequently being implemented at the mid-manager and first-line supervisor level.  External coaches remain the most popular solution for executives.

Organizations are also increasingly looking to create a coaching culture. Companies are training their leaders to better coach others in work-related situations. As more organizations understand the results of coaching, they are offering leader-as-coach training.

The benefits include one-on-one focused development, specialized personal learning, confidentiality, and personal accountability for improvement. In addition, coaching provides leaders the opportunity to develop individual capabilities faster than most instructional programs can, and in areas where training programs do not exist.

So, coaching is becoming more important and intrinsic to developing a successful organization.  External coaches are increasingly used to assist in the development and retention of senior executives and leaders, whilst working with their reports to develop leaders-as-coaches and assist in the creation of a coaching culture.  This builds the capabilities and bandwidth to grow and develop their people and businesses, and helps organizational leaders to develop quickly against a backdrop of an ever-accelerating rate of change.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Three “A’s” for Dealing with Conflict

Attacking. Abdicating. Accountability. 

When dealing with conflict there are only three ways in which you, or your reports, can respond. These are attacking, abdicating and being accountable.

  • Attacking – this is the first part of the “fight or flight” syndrome which we experience when we come across an uncomfortable situation. For example, we are in a meeting where someone has a differing opinion or idea.  We respond by becoming verbally violent and adopt an aggressive behavioral style.  Although this is a form of attack it is, in its essence, a defensive mechanism.  Hear our emotions control us, our ability to think objectively, to listen, to be creative and to consider alternatives is greatly reduced. This not only can lead to sub-optimal decisions, but we can alienate people and jeopardize relationships.
  • Abdicating – this is the “flight” aspect of the “fight or flight” syndrome.  Here we either withdraw from the discussion – this can be physical, mentally or emotionally – and we go to silence.  We don’t add our input or perspective to the general discussion and the collective pool of meaning and insights that the group can draw on is reduced.  Typically you will see passive-aggressive behavior being exhibited, where people only pay lip-service to what has been discussed or even actively sabotages what has been agreed in the meeting. Again, these results in sub-optimal decisions and the individual(s) who abdicate responsibility for the work or making a contribution will effectively undermine the team and his or her relationships with them.
  • Accountability – here the individual stands up and takes ownership of what is happening and the results and implications. To do this you must be open and willing to learn from others and to adapt a better solution no matter where it comes from. Accountability is about engaging yourself and others in a common purpose to achieve shared goals and outcomes. It requires you to let go of ego and to communicate and share ideas and insights, to collaborate, and to learn from each other.

There are only three responses available to you and your team – attack, abdicate or be accountable.  Most people know the first two and ignore the implications, but fail to adopt accountability as the default in order to realize the benefits.  Consider all the situations you are dealing with, at work and home, and ask yourself this: “What response I am currently adopting for this situation, and what response will provide the greatest benefits?  What three actions do I need to take to bridge the gap?” Ask yourself this, and then ask your team. Just exposing the third option of accountability will help people change how they respond to situations.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How Starbucks Demonstrated Leadership During Hard Times

Millions of people and businesses have been impacted, directly or indirectly, by the recent stockmarket drops in China and elsewhere. It is a cause of concern with over $1 trillion being wiped from Asian markets recently, the Dow Jones Industrial Average being sent plunging, as well as in other markets.

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz decided to do something about it. He proceeded to address some major concerns – not directly to customers, but rather, to his employees (these are known as “partners” in Starbucks parlance).

All 190,000 of them.

Here is the brief memo that appeared in the Washington Post.

To: Starbucks partners; managing directors for company-operated and joint venture markets
Date: August 24, 2015

Re: Message from Howard: Leading Through Turbulent Times

Dear Partners,

During our 23-year history as a public company, we have experienced–and successfully navigated through–several periods of extreme stock market volatility. And although we are not immune from the global stock market selloff that has now made its way to Wall Street, my confidence in our company and in all of you has never been greater. We are in the midst of another record-setting year – combining our unique “third place” in-store experience with highly relevant coffee and tea innovation and differentiated customer-facing mobile and digital technologies. We are making a profound social impact in the communities we serve around the world, and will continue to do so today and into the future.

Our company has weathered many different types of storms. But our brand has never been stronger or more relevant. Our pipeline of new products and breakthrough innovation has never been more robust. And our long term commitment to delivering an elevated partner experience is unwavering. I can assure you that we will continue to lead and manage the company through the lens of humanity, doing everything we possibly can to continue to make your families proud of our company and all we stand for. You have my word on this.

Today’s financial market volatility, combined with great political uncertainty both at home and abroad, will undoubtedly have an effect on consumer confidence and perhaps even our customers’ attitudes and behavior. Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and–as you always have–remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.

Our growth plans for the future of our company will not be impacted by the turmoil of the financial markets. We will positively manage through today’s challenging environment just as we have positively navigated through challenging moments in the past. The experience we deliver in our stores, the strength and equity of our brand, and the primary reason for our current and future success is because of all of YOU. I believe in you and have never been prouder to be your partner.


In this brief memo Shultz did a number of things:

  1. Expressed pride and confidence in the achievements of Starbucks and its employees (paragraph 1)
  2. Provided strong, unwavering leadership and personal commitment to all employees (paragraph 2)
  3. Encouraged employees to reach out and show special concern for customers , and that Starbucks earns success from its customers (paragraph 3)
  4. Reassured employees that Starbucks and its employees would weather the storm as it has weathered other storms previously, and that current future success is because of the employees (paragraph 4)

Shultz did this in just 382 words! Brief, concise and effective. If you were a Starbucks partner how would you feel reading this?

My question for you is this: what can you do for your employees and customers to provide them with the support, confidence and direction they need? How will you lead through turbulent times?

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps for Overcoming Change

70% of all change initiatives changing, why is this and what can we as leaders do about it?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

change resistanceIn business, as leaders and managers, one of the hardest things is to engage others in achieving the business’ goals.

One of the hardest things for leaders and managers to is engage people to willingly work to achieve the business’ goals.

Succeeding in doing this makes all the difference. For the employee, it’s the difference between being micromanaged and being self-motivated. For the organization it’s the difference between passive resistance and energized alignment. And for you, the leader, it’s the difference between frustrating exhaustion and inspired collaboration.

The job of a leader or manager is simple: to influence people. And there’s one defining idea we have in our heads that makes that job harder – we believe that people resist change.

So we do all sorts of things to counter that resistance. We try to motivate or coerce people to change.

But instead of breaking through resistance, we create it. People resist being controlled. And so 70% of all corporate change efforts fail.

Here’s what’s interesting: people freely choose to make major life changes every day. We move, get married, start families, face challenges, learn new technologies, change jobs, and develop new skills. Not all of these changes are smooth. But most of the time we seek those changes ourselves and make them successfully.

So why are people willing to change in one situation and resistant to it in another?

Because people don’t resist change, they resist being changed.

In their personal lives people usually make their own choices. But in organizations they feel coerced. And so they use the only power they have to regain control: resistance.

So how do we avoid or overcome the problem of resistance? The answer is simple – give them control. Let them make decisions. If you offer them two choices and they pick a third you have the opportunity to cede control to them as long as their choice achieves the outcome acceptable to you. Then they own their decision and are happy with it because they made it themselves.

The key is to make it real or you will lose credibility. You have to actually give them some control, while keeping some for yourself, because as a manager, you’re always accountable for the outcome.

So here are the three steps:

  1. Define the outcome you want.
  2. Suggest a path to achieve it.
  3. Allow people to reject your path as long as they choose an alternate route to the same outcome.

By ceding some control, and allowing people to make their own choices, they are motivated and take ownership for achieving the outcomes.  This enables them to actively embrace the change, creating an aligned future for both themselves and business.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

6 Ways to Use Money and Assets Effectively

Six ways to use money and assets effectively

When times are hard, and business is slower, harder to get, and less certain, many companies engage in slashing costs.  And they go for that which is most visible and easiest to slash first – the payroll.  However, reducing staff numbers incurs considerable expenses – you have to pay people out, you lose goodwill both with those who are let go and with those who survive the purge, and your capacity and capabilities are reduced – all at the time you need these things most!

An article of the same name by Tom Copeland appeared in the September/October 2000 issue of the Harvard Business Review.  This gives excellent ideas and insights into how companies can cut costs, without having to lay-off experienced staff with the attendant costs.

  • How is your capital budget spent? Often over 80% of most companies’ capital budgets are made up of small items that get rubber-stamped in the budget process. Much of this, is unnecessary gold-plating or even redundant because it merely duplicates spending elsewhere in the organization.

There is a great story about a telecom company that buried its cables at a depth of two meters. When asked why it was necessary to dig so deeply, managers replied that only at that depth would the cable be protected from a thermonuclear explosion. After reflecting on the bomb’s likely impact on customers, the company cut its cable depth to a meter, saving itself $80 million a year as a result.

  • Be frugal, not cheap – when looking at small-cost items you can save substantial amounts over time.  However, do not look to buy cheaply, you will often find this will cost more over time.
  • Is each piece of capital expenditure necessary?  You need to be clear here on what specific needs it will fill; the specific problems it will solve; and how much will it save in terms of resources, both hours and dollars?
  • Eliminate all redundant purchases. Within certain discretionary limits, many people are often authorized to purchase the same items. Look at how you can consolidate these purchases to eliminate duplications.
  • Determine precisely what the total cost is. Price is only one part of the total cost. By viewing your purchases as investments, and including the total costs of ownership for the lifetime of the assets, you can determine the ROI of each capital asset purchase.
  • Maximize the use of shared assets. Look at who is using these assets and how over time.  Where are the assets which are being underutilized or overutilized?  What are the options for handling assets in these areas?
  • Look at your capital expenditure.  Where and how are you spending your capital budget?  When answering these questions what are the potential savings you can make without having to lay off people? Can you cut costs without drawing blood?

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions,

How to Hire for Attitude, Not Just Aptitude

How attitude is a good predictor of prospective employee success, and how you can identify those with the right attitude for your business.

The top challenge for CEOs according to a survey from the Conference Board (January 2013) is Human Capital – the ability to develop and acquire the right people, with the right skills needed to take the business to the next level.  But skills alone are not enough.

“Hire for Attitude, Train for Aptitude”

This is an old mantra which, if ignored, can be costly.  Companies I have worked with have found that recruiting people with the right skills can be costly if they do not have the right ‘attitude’, where there is a lack of ‘fit’.  This is reflected in a study by Leadership IQ of over 20,000 new hires over 3 years which found that 46% of the people about to be hired will fail within the first 18 months on the job. And they won’t fail for lack of skills but rather for lack of attitude.

Top 5 Reasons for Why New Hires Failed

The following are the top areas of failure (i.e., were terminated, left under pressure, received disciplinary action or significantly negative performance reviews):

  • Coachability (26%): the lack of ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others.
  • Emotional Intelligence (23%): the lack of ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and accurately assess others’ emotions.
  • Motivation (17%): insufficient drive to achieve one’s full potential and excel in the job.
  • Temperament (15%): attitude and personality not suited to the particular job and work environment.
  • Technical Competence (11%): functional or technical skills required to do the job.

The key point from this is that when new hires fail, and 46% of them will, 89% of the time it’s because of attitude and only 11% of the time because of skill.

As such, the key predictor of a new hire’s success or failure is their attitude, not their skills.  As such we need to be clear on what attitude we are hiring for. To do this requires two steps:

  • Define the Specific Attitudes – what are the attitudes that make your business different from the rest.  This is both in terms of what is good (which you want) and what is bad (which you want to avoid).
  • Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process – you need to make sure that you focus on these attitudes, so adapt how you do this as appropriate.

How Do We Do This?

Define the Specific Attitudes

Attitudes in themselves are not visible or tangible.  Where they are made apparent is in people’s behaviors.  How people behave is an active display of their attitudes.  Their behavior should also be a reflection of the business’ core values which provides guidance to people in the business.  A good example of how the core values are made tangible, and the expected behavior (and hence attitudes) is shown below.

The US Marine Corp

The US Marine Corps has Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.  The concept of these core values runs throughout all aspects of Marine life, beginning in recruit training and continuing into combat. These “warrior ethos” provide guidance to Marines in difficult ethics situations and as a reminder to provide good order and discipline. These values are defined as:

  • Honor – integrity, responsibility and accountability.
  • Courage – do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons.
  • Commitment – devotion to the Corps and my fellow Marines.

Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process

Too often, when interviewing, we focus on prospective employees’ technical skills and competencies.  Why?  They are the easiest to assess but, as we have seen, they are a very poor predictor of the success or failure of a new employee.

When you look at jobs being advertised the experience, skills, and qualification that are detailed it can be seen that the business advertising the position has the expectation that a perfect candidate will apply.  This is about as far from reality as you can get.  Realistically, there is no ‘perfect candidate’ and, as such, there can only be attitudes that are right for your business – they will never be perfect.

Tests for Finding the ‘Right’ Attitudes

  • High Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your top performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  For example:
    • They own the problem.
    • They always see problems as opportunities.
    • They are great listeners and communicators.
    • Etcetera.
  • Low Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your low performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  These are not just the opposite of the attitudinal characteristics that make a high performer. For example:
    • They avoid responsibility and are quick to blame.
    • They focus on themselves rather than others.
    • They do the bare minimum work required.
    • Etcetera.

Once you’ve got your two lists, conduct a quick assessment to make sure every point is on target. This can be done by asking yourself the following two questions about each attitude listed:

  • How does this attitude add value or competitive advantage to this organization? (If the attitude brings no benefit to the organization, it doesn’t belong on the list).
  • Who cares about this attitude? (If the attitude doesn’t bring benefit to your customers, it doesn’t belong on the list)

Doing this provides insight into both what you want and what you don’t want in the terms of attitudes and the associated behaviors.  It then helps you to prepare for the interview by focusing on how they respond to questions around both these areas.  However, how the questions are phrased is just as important as what the question is.  You need to develop the question with the kind of response that you are looking for in mind.  But that is a separate article.

In summary, be clear on what values, attitudes and behaviors you want in your business, and which you want your new employees to exemplify in what they do and how they do it.  Get clarity by distinguishing the attitudinal characteristics of both your top and low performers – this helps you to identify what you want from a potential employee, and what you don’t want.  Around this then adapt your interview and hiring process to ask the kind of questions that will help you elicit answers which will help you determine the prospective employee’s values, attitudes, and behaviors.  Take this into account when you look at their technical skills, as it is their attitude that is a predictor of their skills – not their technical skills and competencies.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions,

How to Retain Future Talent

Keeping top young managers – your future talent pipeline – is hard.  Find out what they are looking for so you can retain them for longer.

You have spent a lot of time, effort, resources and money in getting the best young managers – but are you managing to retain them?Recent research shows that often they are thinking about the next step, even if they seem fully engaged.  Furthermore, it seems that employee-development programs aren’t delivering what is needed to make them want to stay.A survey cited  in HBR found that of young high achievers – 30 years old, on average and with strong academic records, degrees from elite institutions, and international internship experience – found the following:

  • 75% sent out résumés, contacted search firms, and interviewed for jobs at least once a year during their first employment stint;
  • Nearly 95% regularly engaged in related activities such as updating résumés and seeking information on prospective employers
  • On average, they left their companies after 28 months.

So why is this?

When surveyed (see below), the biggest discrepancies found are those that cost the resources and time – namely coaching and mentoring where the largest gaps.  The need for personalized development and support for the high achiever’s professional and personal ambitions are key – especially in the case of a competitive market for these skills, and where a lack of such skills are being cited as one of the biggest barriers to business growth.

The Career-development Gap

Young managers were asked, on a scale of 1 to 5, how important are these items to them and to what extent their employers provided them.

Source: Monika Hamori, Jie Cao, and Burak Koyuncu

Why is there this disconnect? Formal training is costly and can take employees off the job for short periods of time. Employers are understandably reluctant to make big investments in workers who might not stay long. But this creates a vicious circle: Companies won’t train workers because they might leave, and workers leave because they don’t get training. By offering promising young managers a more balanced menu of development opportunities, employers might boost their inclination to stick around.

The reality is if you train them you have better opportunity to retain them for longer.  If you don’t then they may move or, alternatively, they may “quit and stay” – becoming disengaged and impacting others with their negativity.

Business is about people first and foremost.  If people are truly your greatest assets, and you believe it, then you need to invest in them to help them produce a greater return.  Look at how you can help them help you by sourcing a customized approach to coaching, mentoring and developing their leadership, management, and commercial skills to grow your business

How do you develop and nurture your high achievers?  What has worked for you and what has not?

Share your ideas, insights, and experience!  Share the knowledge, share the wealth!




Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.