Earlier this year, I set a goal for my business. But I failed to accomplish it. I created a digital product and had a certain number of sales I wanted to make. But I didn’t hit that target.
As a leader, you are responsible to see the future and help people envision a better reality. You will help people see bigger opportunities and set bigger goals and strive to reach those. And sometimes, you will hit those goals. Other times, you will fall short of them.
When you don’t hit your goals, your tendency may be to move on to the next thing. But first, you need to process the failure. You need to understand both why and how the failure happened so that you don’t make the same mistake again.If you fail to accomplish your goal, process it before you move on. Click To Tweet
As I’ve been processing through my failure, I think there are three reasons why goals fail. Your team needs to process which of these are true.
Reason 1. God didn’t call you to this goal.
Did God really call you and your team to this particular goal? This is a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes we lead people down paths that are not from God.
If this is the case, there are two potential culprits: self-ambition or mis-hearing.
Self-ambition happens when you set a goal based on your own desires. It’s unfortunate, but we leaders (myself included) can have egos that crave conquering the next mountain for our own glory. If ambition drove you to the wrong goal, then you need repentance and humility.
Leaders need to practice discernment — the habit of slowing down and listening to the voice of God. Often leaders are moving at such a fast pace that they fail to hear God’s voice and know God’s will.
If this is what led to your failed goal, then your team needs to commit to discernment. Build time into your planning rhythms to move slowly in order to hear God’s voice. Commit that you will not move again unless you are confident that your next goal is God’s will.
Reason 2. God did call you to this goal. You were obedient in accepting the goal but not in all the actions it would have taken to accomplish it.
In this option, God did call you to the goal. The failure was not in identifying God’s goal but on bringing the goal to fruition. In other words, it wasn’t a failure of discerning God’s will but of bringing it into reality.
People don’t like to hear this, but it’s critical to state: If God calls you to something that you fail to deliver on, that’s an act of disobedience.If God calls you to something that you fail to deliver on, it’s an act of disobedience. Click To Tweet
If this is the case, teams have usually made a mistake in one of five areas:
Were both the why and the how clear?
Did people understand where you were trying to take them, why you were trying to take them there, and how you were trying to get there?
It’s easy to believe that all you have to do is cast a compelling vision. But you must also demonstrate why the vision is worthy and how it will be accomplished.
Did you identify a clear way to determine when the goal was accomplished? If you don’t determine clear measurements, you won’t know if a goal is accomplished.
Measurements also help you design plans. You create plans that lead you to your intended measure.
Did individuals and teams reorganize their structures and work in order to accomplish the goal?
If you identify a new goal but keep doing your work the exact same way, nothing will change. Individuals and teams need to organize their time, talents, and structure to accomplish the goal.If you identify a new goal but keep doing your work the exact same way, nothing will change. Click To Tweet
Did your team take regular time to identify priorities, think through next steps, and evaluate how you are doing against the goal?
Did you clearly identify who was responsible for what actions and priorities and what the expected deliverables were?
Did people deliver on their expected outcomes? What happened if someone didn’t deliver on their commitments?
A failure to deliver on what God called you to do typically stems from one of these five reasons. Figure out which reason(s) led you to fail to deliver on God’s calling on your team.
Reason 3. God did call you to this goal. You did everything in your power to bring it to fruition, but God had other plans.
This option is the easiest to claim but the hardest to accept. And I would encourage any leader to sparingly accept this one.
It’s the easiest to claim.
It saves your ego if you say, “God led us in this direction, but He changed His mind. It’s His prerogative to do this.” Although this is a huge theological debate, there is Scriptural evidence that God can change His mind (Exo. 32:14; Jer. 26:19; Amo. 7:3, 6).If you keep failing to achieve your goals, don’t blame God for changing His mind. Click To Tweet
I used to attend a church in which the pastor used this excuse as his crutch. Every year, he would set lofty goals and consistently fail to deliver on them. Then, at the end of the year, he would say, “I guess God just had different plans for us.” The reality is that the pastor grew weary with the goal when it became difficult. He wanted to move on to something newer and shinier.
This reason is the easiest to claim because it releases you from responsibility.
But it’s the hardest to accept.
If you discerned God’s will from vision to execution and He doesn’t bring it about, it raises serious theological questions about God’s intentions. If this is the reason that you land on for your failed goal, then you need to ask:
- What is God trying to teach us through this?
- How do we learn this lesson?
- How do we communicate this lesson to our constituents?
As a leader, you will have failed goals. But don’t waste those failures. Process them in order to discover what happened, where the mistakes were made, and what can be done in the future to avoid those same mistakes. The next goal has a better chance of success.
Questions: What goal have you failed to accomplish? Which of these mistakes do you think you made?
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