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The Secret to Managing a "Stretch Goal"

Challenging employees or an entire organization with a stretch goal can elicit great performance -- but only if you as the leader know how to manage what can be a daunting and scary process. Here's what you don't do: Announce the goal, explain the reason, and let people get to work. Steps one and two are good, but you have a lot of work ahead of you before the work begins.

The key, says Robert Sutton on, is to break the goal down into bite-size, manageable steps:

You're a bad boss if, once those goals are known and accepted, you keep mindlessly invoking them. Rather than continually drawing people's attention to that distant horizon, help them see what they can and must accomplish right now. Let them proceed calmly, with confidence, and with the motivation that comes from taking clear little steps -- and they may just accomplish those big hairy goals.
This is great advice. As a manager, you may have drawn up a stretch goal for an employee and immediately seen fear and consternation reflected back at you. How much better to lay out the goal and then talk about the step-by-step road map you'll both follow to see success.

What's your experience with "BHAGs," as Jim Collins calls big, hairy, audacious goals?