Target Expectations

So the GB team hit its target for the World Athletics champs. I was riveted by the event this past week. It had so much compelling raw sport drama with countless close comps, the latest Usain Bolt soap instalment and discovering Sally Pearson.

As for my team, seven medals was coach Charles van Commenee’s target, with one gold. We actually nailed two golds among our seven haul. Dai Green out-psyched his 400m hurdle field, and Mo Farah was truly sensational in winning the 5,000m, especially after being pipped to the 10k crown a week earlier.

As an aside I find it incomprehensible that Mo is apparently our first middle distance runner to engage in both long-term altitude training and spend time in an East African bootcamp. You only need to go for a jog once in Joburg to learn all you need to know about altitude. Then there’s all the anecdotes about his coaches making him run barefoot and do underwater treadmills.

Anyway, as I’ve blogged before (this year and last) drillmaster Charles cultivates his rep as a hard man. When he was giving interviews about the overall performance I was struck by the contradiction in his attitude to targets. He claimed they were an irrelevance, yet was also forever mentioning them. Even talking about having to find one extra medal for next year’s London Olympics (2012 target; 8 medals incl, 1 gold).

It was only through more apt analysis (the kind sorely missing from Channel 4’s atrocious choice of anchors which deserve to end several tv careers – Rick was woeful, but Ortis was spellbindingly shocking) that I picked up on his real nuance.

He distinguishes between targets and expectations. If the two are not in sync, then disaster will ensue. The distinction is subtle, but to him vital.

The aligned the two are, the better chance of success. He even used the comparison of England’s tragi-comic football tournament record to show how when there’s a chasm between the two things really do go pear-shaped.

I was immediately taken with how sales aims should take note of this. So often a target is a hopeget. And the other way around is equally as destructive, when hitting an easy number misses too many tricks too.

That targets should be challenging yet achievable is common sense to many a sales leader. Yet managing and moulding the expectations around quotas is something I realise is often left surprisingly unattended.

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