I came across one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Austin Powers” recently. Dr. Evil gloats to Austin Powers and his colleagues about the means of their impending doom; sharks with lasers. However, he’s quickly informed by his henchmen that they were unable to provide the sharks. At this, Dr. Evil produces one of the great lines of the movie:
“You know, I have one simple request and that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads!”
Besides being (at least in my opinion) really funny, it is too often an accurate scenario playing out in executive planning sessions all over the country. And I’m not comparing the average company CEO to Dr. Evil.
The comparison is the nature of management’s requests. Most companies have some relationship with the calendar year, putting them at the beginning having just completed the year past. And regardless whether last year was a difficult one (meaning you can put it behind you and start fresh) or a great one (meaning you can build on success), our dreams of the coming year are usually filled with optimism.
That’s a good thing.
But it’s important to guard against the impulse to overextend and end up imposing a request similar to sharks with lasers. I’m a fan of aiming high. It gives everyone something to strive for, pushes the organization out of its comfort zone and forces growth. But getting into unrealistic territory with your expectations has an opposite effect; morale tanks, results follow and your best assets (people) head for the door.
Instead of demanding lasers, I counsel leaders to find a realistic end of year scenario and build from there. The only laser to be employed should be a laser-like focus on the goals that have been set. So set your goals high! Just leave the sharks with lasers out of it.