Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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Charting Your Course for the Future

Happy Boxing Day, also known as the day after Christmas!

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you enjoyed a special Christmas celebration with family and friends. Over the next several days, we will shut the door for 2022 and usher in 2023! And each of us will engage in this activity either deliberately or unintentionally.
For some of us, the end of a calendar year entails celebrating accomplishments from the previous year and planning for the next year! Or, in this case, celebrating the wins of 2022 and setting goals for 2023. And most of us carry out this process with a specific aim – to chart our course for the future.

Notably, this process, commonly known as Goal Setting, also happens in many organizations. And for some organizations, it is a vulnerable pursuit. Because to create a pathway for the future, they endeavor to uncover the organization’s ethos by excavating the pearls and scars of its history. 

And other organizations are content with taking a quicker route. Specifically, they look no further than a year into the past and a year or two into the future. A process we might refer to as a: Look Back and See Forward. Ironically, it is also a process that many individuals and organizations treat as an activity that occurs on a specific date.
Naturally, this would lead one to wonder: What will happen when the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins? – Will we magically develop superpowers, watch our weaknesses and mistakes from the past year melt away, and start leading new lives serendipitously?

Goaling or Wishing?

Admittedly for a while, I also regarded closing out a year and starting a new year as instantaneous activities. – In my early 20s, at the end of every calendar year, I made the jolly trek to a Barnes and Noble bookstore in the University Village mall in Seattle, Washington, to purchase a writing journal. And my top requirement for the journal was: it had to match my theme for the year!

On a particular year, etched on the cover of my writing journal, was the word: captivating! And that year, on December 31st, I penned my dreams, desires, and wishes. Ironically, I called them goals even though they did not adhere to the SMART goal strategy – the known criteria for goal setting. Specifically, they were neither achievable nor measurable. (For more on SMART goals: The Ultimate Guide to S.M.A.R.T. Goals – Forbes Advisor)
Specifically, one of my wishes was to become a 200m track athlete and train for the Olympics. And the wish was born out of my admiration of athletes like Jackie Joyner-Kersee whose biography I read one summer. I thought: Jackie is captivating! Surely I would be too when I follow in her footsteps! But with no concrete plan to bring my aspiration to fruition, it was a mere wish, not a goal. 

After a few of these mishaps, i.e., moments when my wishes did not manifest into reality, I decided to avoid basing my future on my wishes. Also, I learned to make concrete goals – not arbitrary goals.

Goals in business

How does this play out in organizations?

In many organizations, the goal-setting process can appear cryptic to workers! And I once worked with a division leader of an enterprise whose goal-setting process was much the same.
At the end of every fiscal year, he would plan a 4-hour meeting with the directors on his team to discuss their goals for the upcoming fiscal year. During the meeting, he would ask them to share their goals – deliverables, accountabilities, and success measures.
That sounds like a customary and healthy organizational practice. Right?
Well, there is more to it! This practice is healthy at face value. But the benefits of goal setting lie in the intention and integrity of the process, not simply targets.

Whenever a director shared a goal, the leader would respond: What was last year’s goal? I think you can do better! Increase the goal by 20 or 30%! And the leader would increase the goal without offering any rationale. Therefore the revised goal seemed arbitrary.
And this troubled the directors greatly! And after a while, it seemed they were reading a script. Because as they went around the table, each would verbally accept the revised goal that the leader set. Despite not believing in it! And when the directors shared the goal with their team members, they struggled to hide their lack of commitment to the goal. Therefore, their team members did not buy into it either.

Unfortunately, this perpetuated a vicious cycle wherein teams routinely missed the arbitrary goal set by the leader but met the original goal they set as a team.

Is this an anomaly? Think not! It is the demise that often accompanies the pursuit of arbitrary goals!

Personal aspirations

To bring this closer to home, let’s consider another scenario. One you may have heard of or experienced! – The goal of getting healthy and losing 10 pounds!
By the way, why does everyone say they want to lose 10 pounds, not 9 or 11.5 pounds?? Perhaps, this is due to our fondness for round numbers and multiples of 10. Hmmm… I digress. 😊

Back to our scenario: One sets a goal to get healthy and lose 10 pounds in two months by February 14th, in time for Valentine’s Day! Being committed, they adhere to their workout regimen and strict diet! Then on February 5th, they step on a scale, and oops, they realize they are not on track! In the last month and a half, they only lost 5 pounds. And now, to meet their goal, they need to lose another 5 pounds in nine days!

Now, they have a choice to make! They can remember their worthy goal, which is to get healthy. And stick to their workout regimen and diet, confident they will meet the goal sooner or later. Or they could throw their hands up, return the beautiful outfit they purchased for a Valentine’s Day gala, and indulge in a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! 

I bet we can all agree that the latter approach, though tempting, is not the best. Because not only will that approach prevent one from achieving the weight loss goal, but it will also compromise the ability to achieve the worthy goal of getting healthy.
And this tends to be the case when we focus on arbitrary goals. – We focus on winning the battle at the expense of losing the war.

As we wrap up the year: 2022 and prepare for 2023, I hope we do not get mired in the web of arbitrary goals. And instead, choose to remain committed to our worthy goals no matter how long they take.
To a healthy and growth-filled 2023!

Have an exhilarating and safe new year celebration!

For you and to you,



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