NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was a newly formed organization in 1958 with the expectation of doing great things beyond the bounds of earth. They were embarrassed when the Soviet Union launched the first orbital satellite, Sputnik, in 1959. The leadership of NASA had set goals they wanted to achieve, in fact they had set eight major goals. One of them stated, “The development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies and living organisms through space.” The Soviet Union had one goal, to be the first country to launch an object into orbit around the earth. Goals are interesting, inspiring, and motivational, if (and I do mean if) they are structured in a way that can lead to viable results. That’s where great leaders come into the picture.
That great leader was the newly elected President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. In a famous speech he said, “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” Kennedy’s goal was focused, challenging and had a timetable. On July of 1969, the United States landed men on the moon and safely returned them back to earth, realizing Kennedy’s goal. Why was his goal achieved? It was far more ambitious than the eight goals NASA has set in 1958. The lesson here applies to every organization regardless of size. Let’s break it down and see how it applies to your own organization.
The initial key word is “focus.” No organization can effectively focus on numerous goals and for a variety of reasons. First, different people will favor and support different goals that fit their own personal agenda. As a result, little progress is made. It is okay to have multiple goals but at any one time the focus should only be on one or two major goals if the attainment of those goals is to be realized. I persuaded one of my dealerships with whom we had been consulting to take this approach. There is a lot they wanted to do since they had struggled at commercial sales. The single goal we decided to accomplish was to provide exceptional service to all their commercial customers by making it easy to do business with their service, parts, and sales department. We mirrored the “JFK Man on the Moon” goal by instituting a series of steps, here they are:
There must be a deadline or endpoint for achievement. Goals will linger forever without a clear point where achievement can be a finish line not an imaginary line. Athletic contests have time limits, even the IRS realizes the importance of having an “April 15th.” None of NASA’s eight goals had a time table. Our commercial department goal “end point” was six months from the start date.
Next, leadership is essential to guide any team to the finish line. Great leaders understand they don’t inspire others through being dictatorial but rather by keeping the troops focused and energized through clearing obstacles and motivating others to reach beyond themselves for the greater good. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1966 so he never lived to see his goal realized, but his leadership lived on. He was adamant about this one goal and he knew it would energize the nation and place the United States in a position of world leadership. The leadership of our dealership met weekly to review progress. This included the dealership principal, the general manager, and the parts, service and commercial manager. Progress was tracked and necessary changes made to the “exceptional service” goal. It included pickup and delivery of vehicles to go into service, a dedicate loaner service, identifying parts and service customers who used these services but had bought their vehicle from a competitor and sending a monthly commercial newsletter to all current customers. Result? Referrals from current customers increased by almost 100% with a 72% closure rate on new business unit sales! This was without compromising price. In fact upfront gross profit rose by 53%!
What about you? What about your dealership? Do you have that “land a man on the moon” goal? Is your organization and you bogged down in too many expectations that in the end are meaningless to your customers and your team. Inspiration comes through focus, a finish line, great leadership to keep you moving forward and the incredible feeling of accomplishing greatness! Here is a poem to live by:
“When I think of what it is that sets some men apart,
I think that goals must be the place to start.
Imagine playing football on an unmarked field of green,
No a goal line to be sought, not a goal post to be seen.
It would be an aimless battle were there nothing to be gained,
Not a thing to strive for not a goal to be obtained.
We must have purpose in our lives for the flame that warms the soul,
Is an everlasting vision, every man must have his goal.”
The lesson from President Kennedy and the United States being the first to land a man on the moon? Great leadership recognizes that we all must be united for a common purpose and an overriding focus on the “one thing” that will take us to the next level and cross the finish line of achievement. If it is sales related the “one thing” might be an incredible commitment to customer service or an increase in the number and quality of our sales contacts. It’s time to “light up the scoreboard” and celebrate!
About Ken Taylor: