Big breakthroughs come from audacious objectives
I’m no big fan of Elon Musk. He has too many narcissistic tendencies for my liking. There’s only one aspect of his personality that I like: he is audacious.
The dictionary defines audacious as somebody who “take risks or offends people.”
Elon Musk certainly fits that description. He has his ugly side. He offends people right, left and centre, and doesn’t seem to care. At times, he has gone too far and insulted people who don’t deserve it – like the cave rescuers in Thailand who didn’t need his help.
He also takes risks. In 2018, Tesla almost ran out of cash. Today, Tesla has the highest market valuation of all the global car companies. It’s miles ahead of Toyota and Volkswagen, the second and third most valuable companies.
That’s the point with audacity. It’s about being brave, pushing to the point where it feels scary, to the point where you may get it wrong.
Take Tesla’s new European plant in Grünheide, near Berlin. Musk loudly complains about the slow German planning process. There are claims and counter claims of building work starting before the planning permission has been given. But that’s the typical risk Musk and Tesla take. They are betting that once the buildings on the site are up, the authorities will not force Tesla to remove them. There are too many jobs – and votes – at stake for the local politicians to stop construction.
Musk pushes the limits everywhere, not just in his home country. He does it because his goals are audacious.
The alternative to audacious goals: managed mediocrity
The real challenge for weak managers is they fear being audacious. They have an image in their mind which is too delicate, to comfortable. Dealing with reality is too scary, too shocking. So they stay put. Their strategy is to play it safe and often to not play at all. This is managed mediocrity.
When too many managers do this, the company culture is infected by managed mediocrity. The business results are mediocre – always average, permanently in the middle of the pack.
Audacity is admirable and possible for everyone
The good news is that the potential in your global business units is right under your nose. The Covid pandemic shows people they have all the potential they need. Look at how quickly they adapted to working from home. Look at how friends and families adapted to meeting online via Zoom and whatsapp.
You’ll only know your company’s true potential when you use this example to set audacious goals.
How to start the upgrade to audacious goals
The first big step is mental. The best managers I work with share one important belief. They don’t accept the negative view that people only play politics and the blame game at work. Instead, they strongly believe that people want a challenge. Employees want space to be creative, use their skills, and solve issues for their customers.
The next step is to challenge everyone across your global units to be audacious. Try this tactic: ask people, “What is the bravest, most courageous decision you’ve taken in your career?”
Their answers will contain audacity. Courageous decisions always have an audacious objective. All of your team have been audacious at one time or another. It’s your task to build on this foundation and create a culture where they are audacious again.
In short, encourage people to make a clear choice. On one hand: don’t take a risk, don’t push yourself, avoid any personal struggles or pain. Be mediocre.
On the other hand, have audacious objectives that create breakthrough growth, that help your company realise its full potential, and that guarantee personal growth for yourself and everyone around you.