The Power of Targets

Goals? Benchmarks? Outcomes? All so confusing … What do all these words mean? Well, today we discuss why the one word you need to know is TARGET! Join us as we discuss how powerful targets can be in achieving your best!


0:01 Pieta Blakely

New Year, new goals. Today we are going to be talking about targets. Why I only use the word targets, never goals, why they’re important and how they can help you show up best for the communities you serve.

0:17 CTMM jingle

0.42 Pieta Blakely

Good morning and welcome to Coffee Time. My name is Pieta Blakely, and I’m the founder and principal of Blakely consulting. I’m joined today by my colleague and co-host, Cynthia Rojas. Good morning, Cynthia.

0.54 Cynthia Rojas

Hi, how are you?

0.56 Pieta Blakely

Good. I want to welcome everybody who is watching us or listening to us in the United States and around the world. Today, We are talking about targets. I love targets. This is my favorite topic.

1.09 Cynthia Rojas

I know! You love topics talking about targets. Like I love talking about leadership.

1:15 Pieta Blakely   

Yeah! Yeah. And it’s the beginning of a new year, you might be thinking about setting some targets for your organization, your program yourself. So today we’re going to talk about what a target is, and why I think they’re so important. And why they’re different from a New Year’s resolution or a goal.

1:38 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah! I can’t wait to hear.

1:40 Pieta Blakely

Yeah. So Cynthia, have you said any new targets for your business this year?

1:45 Cynthia Rojas

Yes, yes. Oh, my God. That’s funny, you should ask. I did some financial projections, which to me is always fun, because I feel going into my fourth year. As a consultant, I have a handle of what a good projection is and forecasting. So, I’ve also got to join with the types of projects that I want to do, because that is what informs the financial projection. And I think for now, that is it. That is it. Those are the two main ones that I did. How about you?

2:25 Pieta Blakely

Yes, I have some, I have some revenue targets. I also have some action targets. And we can talk about the difference between those two. And I have some quality of life targets, because I have learned that if I set a revenue target without a lifestyle target, I just end up sad and miserable and overworked.

2:51 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. And you’re so inspiring about that. And we’ll talk about Kerin Hines coming on the show to talk about the 12-week year.

3:00 Pieta Blakely  

I love the 12-week year.

3:02 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, you do something every 12 weeks, and I’ve come to incorporate that. So, but I didn’t think so and you taught me the quality of life measured targets. Yeah, I love that. I forgot about them. Thank you for reminding me.

3:18 Pieta Blakely

So, let’s talk about those measures and targets because that’s my favorite. It’s my favorite thing. And let’s first talk about why I try so hard never to say goals, right? Because goals can mean a lot of things, right? They can mean how it’s going look when I’m done, right? Or then you mean, what am I going to do to get there? Right. So like, let’s say that my goal is running a marathon, right? That’s one way to say that, by the end of the year, I will have run a marathon.

But I have this other action step in between, which is probably to go jogging every day. And so some people can also articulate that as a goal. My goal is to run 20 miles a week or something like that, right? Like, confusing types of goals. And then the third thing that I see a lot of organizations put in their planning in their logic models, all kinds of places where they don’t belong is milestones. Like, this week, I’m going to run my 100th mile. Like, that’s a great thing. That is definitely a time to stop and celebrate.

04:37 Cynthia Rojas

I love that

04:39 Pieta Blakely

But there is no outcome nor an action. Yeah, it’s just time for a party. So I’m not saying eliminate milestones. I’m not saying don’t celebrate them, have them and celebrate them. They’re a big deal. But they can be confusing when they make their way into things like your strategic planning or your logic model. late or something like that. Right?

5:02 Cynthia Rojas

Can we just pause? Can we pause? I love the way you said. They’re just the reason for a party. I love it. I’ll tell you this. I don’t throw parties. But I do celebrate by going shopping. And yes, a milestone leads me to the store.

5:24 Pieta Blakely  

If your organization hits an important milestone, right, like, you graduate, and your 1000th participant, or you hit your fundraising target? You absolutely need to stop what you’re doing and have a party. And to me, that is the most important part, setting targets in your organization, right is like otherwise, how are you going to know when to celebrate? Right? I mean, how are you going to know you’re making progress, and you’re doing what you need to do. So I don’t want to minimize the importance of having parties. Super important. You should celebrate them, you should post them, you should talk about them. But you should leave them off your dashboards. So, that’s what I will say, about goals.

Let me say what a target is, a target is a reminder, plus a target, right? Where we’re supposed to be yet, right? So I can have action targets, which is I’m going to make 100 phone calls every day, And I can have outcome targets, I’m going to raise $10,000, right. Or when I do one, maybe it’s a leading indicator that leads to the other. I’m going to run 20 miles every week so that I can run one marathon at the end of the year.

6:49 Cynthia Rojas

So, Pieta. I don’t know if it was my Internet, or if other viewers may have had this issue. I didn’t hear the first part of the equation. You said targets are

7:01 Pieta Blakely

Oh, it’s a performance measure. Right? Plus that value that we’re supposed to get, right? Right. And the performance measure has to be articulated really, really clearly so that the target can be a single number. That makes sense, like the performance measure is the number of miles to run per week, so that the target can be really simple 20. And if it takes more than that to articulate your target, it’s not a target. You’re not done yet. There’s something wrong with your performance measure.

7:35 Cynthia Rojas

Oh, I love that. Oh, my God, that was so enlightening. Okay.

7:41 Pieta Blakely

This is why revenue targets are so easy, right? Because some of the parameters were set for us, because everybody does it. Right? So you’re looking at a 12 month period from January 1st through December 31st. And you just do that, because that’s what everybody does, right? You didn’t have to write that into your measure, right? And you’re measuring in US dollars.

And you’re just doing that, because that’s what everybody does, right. And there are two ways to measure this, you can measure it either by the value of the invoices you send out or the value of the checks you come in. Right.

And you made that decision once. And that’s just the decision you make forever. Right. And so setting your revenue target is just simply picking that number. When we think about some of the other targets, like what percentage of our third graders are going to read at grade level, at the end of this year?

We have to articulate some of those decisions, right? as measured by what, right, as demonstrated by reading to their teacher, as demonstrated by some fill in the bubble, big state standardized tests. Right? So we all have to agree that this measure is good enough, right?

It’s going to tell us this thing, right? It’s going to tell us what kids read at grade level, right? And which kids, all of the kids, only the kids that are there on test day, right? So that’s what makes it a little bit harder in some of our programs to define our performance measures and then define our targets.

9:21 Cynthia Rojas

So I just realized something. I have been trying to change my behavior. And I have a goal. So it’s meditation, and I have a goal and the goal is for.

9:35 Pieta Blakely

We are all working on that one

9:40 Cynthia Rojas

I don’t have a target. And Sundays I’m contained in some days I don’t and, and then I get upset because I feel like I’m losing my wisdom. But yeah, I’m not using my wisdom. I don’t have wisdom. And I don’t have a target. I’ve never said I’m going to meditate 30 days out of the month, which would be everyday. And please do not eat.

10:07 Pieta Blakely

And how do you meditate, like if you meditate for one minute, does that meet the standard? Or do you need to be meditating for 30 minutes for it to count?

10:18 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, yeah. And I even got an app that tracks and they call it something when you meditate uninterrupted daily like we get to do. I forget the word but yeah, I’ve never thought a bit of it as needing a number or having a number that I should be aiming toward. And so I’m not as disciplined as I want to be.

10:51 Pieta Blakely

And, you know, right. I mean, apps, sticker charts, and habit trackers are fantastic for this. But for the habit tracker to work, you need a behavior that is so clearly defined that you can check off when you are done.

11:10 Cynthia

I love this. So measurement, which gets used a lot, is what gets you to a target, but it is not your target.

11:21 Pieta Blakely

Good. Yep. Yep.

11:26 Cynthia Rojas

I love this. I love this. Okay. All right. Why is this important?

11:34 Pieta Blakely

Because you play harder when somebody’s keeping score. For one reason and like Lindsey Satterfield, when we are talking about Lindsay Satterfield. Lindsay Satterfield is a productivity guru that Cynthia and I both adore, she would say, because you get a little rush of happy chemicals in your brain when you accomplish something, right.

And so that creates this positive feedback loop, right? Like, I want to, I want to check, you know, make the checkmark and get the little dopamine rush, and then you create this positive loop of doing the behavior every day. Absolutely,100%. Believe in that, right. And that’s one of the reasons why I think for these leading indicators, we want to set targets that are really achievable. Right? As it shouldn’t really be the behavior itself. That’s hard. What we’re doing is overcoming the inertia of not doing it, right. I mean, your entire day is set out, right? And you’re going and you’re doing things and you’re not meditating, right? You need a certain amount of energy to stop what you’re doing.

And go meditate, right? If you are running a program, and you’ve got participants in the building, and they’re doing stuff, and you need to do one new initiative, because of your plan for this year, right? You need to identify 10 Kids and spend some extra time on them with their reading or something. There’s a lot of inertia there to overcome, right? And so the action itself can’t be too hard, right? Because what we’re working on is just like getting ourselves into the action, right?

That’s why people say, you know, if you’re going to, if you’re going to start a workout routine, on day one, you should just get out of bed and put on your sneakers. Yeah, that’s day one, get out of bed, put on your sneakers, the next year, put on your sneakers and open the front door. And it might be like day five, that you actually run, right? That you go from, like staying in a warm, cozy bed, to being outside running all in one day. That’s just too much.

13:54 Cynthia Rojas

It’s Miserable.

13:55 Pieta Blakely

Yeah. Right, you’re going to be miserable. And then you’re going to feel like a failure. And you’re gonna start to think like, Oh, I’m just not the kind of person who does that. We’re not the kind of program that does that. Right? There’s too much inertia, it’s too hard. And we don’t want to get into that kind of thinking. Right? We want to be building that muscle.

Right? So you know, so that’s why, you know, the leading indicator itself, and when I say leading indicator and lagging indicator, I’m quoting the four disciplines of execution, which is a book I love for implementing any kind of change in an organization. So that’s why we start with like, right to this is really, really attainable. Right? Yeah. and build and build and build on those habits. Right.

14:43 Cynthia Rojas

I think this is life changing. Pieta and I hope that much like me, if our viewers have not thought about this or thought about their goals in terms of actual targets, that they will make the shift because, This has really resonated with me personally. But I’m thinking about all the things I do. They don’t have specific targets, they have measurements, right? I can calculate the measurement. I know the difference between a goal or an outcome and a benchmark, like I know the lingo. Right. But I don’t focus on those numerical targets. Yeah. As much as some other things.

15:31 Pieta Blakely

Yeah. And I really think that, you just achieve it. I mean, even if you’re not just having it there, you know, I had this experience this year, where I have a sales target for the year for my business, you know, total value of new contracts brought in the year. And it just sits on this dashboard that I see every day, all year, I didn’t really do anything in terms of sales. In the last month, I went to zero from zero, close to zero to hitting my target. I am convinced it’s just because the target has been sitting there all year, that I have exactly hit the sales target, and 95% of it in the month of December.

It’s just powerful, right, just having a number and having it there makes it happen. It also creates a context to have a conversation about it. Right? So one of the things that I really believe is these targets are not there to make people feel bad, right, or to highlight when people have not done their job. That’s the fear, right? People say, Oh, I don’t want to say that I’m going to get in trouble if I didn’t attain the target. But that’s not the idea.

The idea is to be able to say like, what are the obstacles to us hitting this target? Right? You know, so, you know, if you’re not meditating every day, it shouldn’t be like, Well, I’m just a bad and terrible meditator. Right? It should be, well, how can I? How can I tack this on to another behavior that I’m doing? Right? Or how can I find a moment in the day? That is a little bit easier for me? Or how can I adjust the expectation and just take deep breaths, right? So that you can build that.

In our organization, It might be, we had a target to make 100 fundraising calls. But I am being distracted. I have too many other tasks on my desk or my work environment is kind of noisy, right? I need to be moved further away from the childcare area, right, in order to make these calls. So we can have just a very supportive and helpful conversation when we have a target. Right? Yeah, yeah.

18:11 Cynthia Rojas

There are some industries that do this very well, because you were just talking about sales. Right. Hey, sales people have very clear targets. There’s no abstract targeting in the Sales industry.

18:29 Pieta Blakely

No, no. And what they’re doing is relatively unimportant to what our listeners are doing. Right. So how dare we just wing it? Right. You know? So, you know, another? So let’s talk about the outcome targets, right? Things like the number of third graders that are reading at grade level. There are a couple of reasons why that really matters.

And I feel very strongly that when we have a target like that, it should be very high, and it should be the same target for everybody. Right? And that it’s really important to name that target. Right. So, to me, that target is always 100%. Right? Now, some people are going to say, oh, that’s just not realistic, right? Not all of the children are going to read at a grade level this year. To which I respond. Okay. You go find the moms of the ones that aren’t and explain it to them.

19:32 Cynthia Rojas

Right, right. I love that, Yeah.

19:35 Pieta Blakely

Yeah. I think we have an ethical responsibility to set very high targets. we, you know, we have to live like given the work that we do we live with the discomfort of not always hitting them. But the conversation is, how do we leverage and build on the strengths and assets of this particular group? so that they can reach this very high target. And how can we remove barriers that are keeping this group from reaching this very high target?

20:10 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. I love that. Because even if the number was high, let’s say 95%. And you have 100 kids, you give yourself some wiggle room.

20:21 Pieta Blakely


20:23 Cynthia Rojas

To maybe not work as hard on five kids. I don’t know. I don’t want to get that wrong. I think the wiggle you know.

29:35 Pieta Blakely

The wiggle, to me, feels morally wrong.

20:39 Cynthia Rojas

I love it, And so this idea of having wiggle room when we’re dealing with human lives,

20:44 Pieta Blakely

Right,Yeah. Yeah

20:51 Cynthia Rojas

So, And I’ve always felt like one of the things that has been missing in the nonprofit sector is evaluating different business models to see how we can factor that in when we’re dealing with human lives. And I’ve had that perspective ever since I went into the nonprofit sector, because I came from the private sector, and we measure everything. We, you know, when money is the bottom line, it is easy, how things are structured, processes, right? SOPs is just a standard word. Like everybody knows that. Sop stands for Standard of operation. And in the nonprofit sector, it looks a little differently, and doesn’t have to always have different things like targets.

21:51 Pieta Blakely

Yeah. So one of the things that I hear there’s a fear about setting high targets, because people are worried that they won’t hit them. And that will lead to an uncomfortable conversation with their funders. And they say, you know, they want to hand in a report card that says, Yeah, we did all of the things, right. I think there’s a better way to think about your relationship with your funder, right? Rather than, hey, let’s, let’s throttle our own ambition, and only set targets that we know will hit, right.

Let’s set really ambitious targets, right? And let’s tell our funders that, from our perspective, it would be ethically wrong to set low targets, we set ourselves to high standards, because we do important work. And then if you find that you are not on track to meeting this target, call your funders up, call them up in the middle of the year and say, hey, here are some of the obstacles that we’re seeing. And we would like your thought partnership, about how to do better. Right. Yeah, I mean, I think that they would rather have this conversation with an ambitious learning organization. then just get a report at the end of the year saying, we said we would do it. And yeah, we mostly did it. Right.

23:12 Cynthia Rojas

And that’s the thing, this is a truly learning organization, I’ll tell you another thing that an organization could do. So you aim for 100%, you don’t make the 100%. But your report is on the learnings of why the discrepancy. And then the changes that you are planning to make arrangement as a result of those learnings. Yeah, I think that’s funder’s dream.

23:43 Pieta Blakely

I would hope so. Right?

23:45 Cynthia Rojas

That you’re still morally committed or omitted from a moral perspective, to reach that 100% Get ya doing it. Because we never leave a child behind. No. And here’s,

24:00 Pieta Blakely

Here’s one other thing that I have noticed happens when you don’t have a universal and high target, is somebody in your dataset becomes the target. Right? And so I’m sure you have seen this kind of bar graph that has to do with anything that has to do with disparities.

So it’s you know, kids reading at grade level or it’s been a positive outcome from hospitalizations. And there is no line of this is what is good enough for all of the people and white people are the highest line and so that becomes the target. Right? Now we center whiteness in a way that is so problematic, right? And it just limits our entire conversation to how can we make the black kids do as well as the white kids? Well, how do we know that that’s how well black kids are supposed to do? I think They’re probably supposed to do better than that. But I think with the right support that they’re probably supposed to do better than that. Right? We just assume that right now.

25:12 Cynthia Rojas

I love that. Yeah. I love that. Oh, my God! So we have got you back, do you think throughout the year we can revisit this conversation? Let’s see where we’re at. Do you know specific nonprofits that have very clear targets? that makes a commitment?

25:33 Pieta Blakely

That nice, nice,

25:34 Cynthia Rojas

It’d be really interesting to see it operationalized because I’m blown away by just the simple concept of a target versus measurement. Get that the number gets something to aim for. Yeah.

25:49 Pieta Blakely

Well, Good luck setting your targets everybody.

25:52 Cynthia Rojas

Hey, and Happy New Year.

25:53 Pieta Blakely

Happy new year!

Pieta Blakely

About Pieta Blakely

I help mission-based organizations measure their impact so that they can do what they do well. I started my nonprofit career as a teacher in workforce development and adult basic education. It was important work and I was worried that we didn’t really know if we were doing it well. In the process of trying to answer that question, I got a Masters in Education and a PhD in Social Policy, and became an evaluator.

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