Aim high

As deer hunting season begins, people in my town are talking about the best tactics for "bagging the big one." Friendly arguments have begun regarding bullets versus bows and red flannel versus fluorescent orange clothing. A few topics net no argument, however. There is a desperate need to cull the herd. If you want to land a 10-pointer, you'll have to get an early start and be ready to change direction at any moment. And if you want to hit your target, you'd better aim high.

Hunters aim high to accommodate the drop of a bullet's arcing trajectory. In business, leaders aim high to anticipate possible costs and compromises inherent in achieving goals. They do a lot of planning and financial analysis, as well. They often hit their targets by aiming high in reasonably optimistic ways.

But leaders often are reluctant to overstate their goals. Fearful of appearing irrational at the outset and experiencing failure at the end, they set themselves up for the safety of gradual improvement, focusing not on what is possible but what is probable. The result is predic­table, not inspirational and incremental, not ambitious.

So, how can you aim high for goals—and attain them?