Failure is an option for 2011: Peak Performance Tips

See forest for trees

I bet you never thought that you would read an article that discusses the necessity of considering failure when planning goals? Hopefully, this article will inspire you to re-think how you approach goal setting.

I remember reading about NASA’s Apollo 13 mission and hearing their motto “failure is not an option,” and thought those were sage words of advice. However, when thinking about planning my yearly goals every year, no matter where I worked, companies large and small, we always were encouraged to have both realistic, achievable goals, as well as “stretch” goals. Ideally, the stretch goals were ones that you may not be able to achieve and were sometimes those that had elements that were not always in your control. The bottom line, though, was that there was a certain degree of risk involved and a chance you could fail in reaching those goals.


Reflecting back on my experience with achieving goals and with supervising others to achieve them-I have come to realize that whether one achieves their stretch goal(s) or not was dependent on a combination of factors:

  • The person’s level of motivation in achieving the goal
  • The person’s level of enjoyment with the activity needed to achieve the goal
  • The person’s level of clarity with the goal and expectations
  • The person’s perception of how much their salary growth/decline was tied to the goal
  • The person’s perception of how much accountability there was from others
  • The person’s decision as to where they placed this goal on their priority list
  • The person’s reinforcement system for accomplishing steps towards the goal

I am sure there are other factors, but these are the ones that come to mind.

So how do we achieve success with our goals given all these contributing factors? I propose that we must create goals that have the following characteristics taken from performance management common usage:

  • Be Specific, Stretching, Simple
  • Be Measurable, Motivational
  • Be Attainable, Agreed on
  • Be Results-oriented and Realistic
  • Be Time oriented
  • Be Evaluated, Engaging
  • Be Re-evaluated, Rewarded
  • Be Shared with an accountable person

To be successful, we must make every effort to monitor and adjust our attitude and behaviors. Attitude clearly affects behavior so it is important to remember that having a positive attitude influences our behavior and the behavior of others. This is not always easy given the stresses involved in our every day work life and in accomplishing tasks where your success is dependent on others doing their job.

When it comes to reaching stretch goals we must have the attitude that failure is an option. We must give ourselves, and those we supervise, the support, encouragement and reinforcement they need to succeed and to feel good if they fail as long as they gave it their best effort. Only until we create a climate where it is okay to take risks and fail will we truly achieve peak performance and maximum profitability.

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