A safe stretch
Canada appears to have fallen far short of its goal of "Owning the Podium" at the Vancouver Olympics. How can leaders know the difference between a "stretch" goal that inspires people to reach new heights and an unattainable goal that winds up demoralizing people?
Winning medals at the Olympics isn't a stretch goal -- it's the only goal! Canada has participated in every Winter Olympics, has won at least one medal at every Olympics in which it has competed, and has a long history of winning both Olympic medals and international competitions in such winter sports as hockey, speed skating and figure skating. They also have world class coaches and training facilities to prepare athletes from a young age -- all the ingredients required to be successful. A Jamaican boblsed team winning an Olympic medal IS a stretch goal, as they have no history of doing so, no facilities and no prior competitive experience.
A stretch goal can be an excellent motivator if there is a clear plan to achieve success, and if the team members feel capable and supported. Too often, leaders use lofty goals as a way to distract people from an unpopular decision, such as a merger or a layoff. The point of setting these goals is to achieve greatness that no individual would have reached on their own. Just ask the New Orleans Saints.
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