Power of a Meaningful BHAG

By Cathy McCullough

dateFri, Mar 27, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

If you read my last blog on this subject, you were introduced to, of all things, a grocery store (Wegmans). IMeaningful_BHAG shared in that blog how powerful a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) can be when you truly strive to reach the summit of your stated BHAG. Another example is a company I recently worked with that provides and services high-tech equipment and supplies for people with special needs. What I noticed is that this company has a lot of the same characteristics as Wegmans, even though they’re clearly in a very different industry. Even so, there was an invisible energy in the room over the two days of their Annual Planning Session that allowed them to create an amazing plan for 2015. When I toured their facility, I encountered friendly people around every corner; all of them wanted to chat. I felt like I was strolling down an avenue of an incredibly fascinating place.

What, I thought, are these businesses doing to soar toward, and sustain, success? Upon reflection, here’s my compilation of a few things they’re doing that’s paving the way for their sustainable success toward their BHAG.

  • Money and Purpose: Both of them have CEOs who firmly believe that money is a result; it isn’t the sole reason for being. To these CEOs, money is the result of doing a whole lot of little things exactly right. What’s more important than money to both of these CEOs is their Core Purpose. For my client serving a special needs population, that purpose is Creating Better Lives. If you don’t believe (literally) in that Purpose, then you won’t fare well as an employee for this organization.
  • Vision: Both are extremely intentional in their decision-making. They both had a Vision to be the absolute best in their respective industries, to be innovative in their industries, to build a firm foundation that in some way would impact the lives of others. The secret is that they both have managed to live to that Vision vs. allowing it to escape over time into nothing more than a vapor.
  • Legacy: Both CEOs believe in leaving a legacy that will far outlive them.
  • Culture: Both CEOs understand the business value of human emotion—both on the employee side as well as on the customer side. There’s relevance to emotion and there’s an ROI on channeling it in the right direction. Where many leaders simply balk at the ‘soft’ side of business, these CEOs totally understand it and leverage it.
  • Perspective: Both CEOs exhibit personal resolve and professional will (to use terms coined by Jim Collins about Level 5 Leadership). They seem to understand that “it’s not about them.” It’s about something bigger—which takes us back to their BHAG and their Purpose.
  • Humility: Both CEOs are personally very humble. The CEO I worked with even started keeping a list he calls, “Things I’ve Learned.” He printed it out so he’d have it with him during the two-day Annual Planning Session – just to remind himself of what he’s learned (if he needed to do so) and to add to it if needed.
  • Operationalizing Values: Both CEOs believed in building organizational cultures founded of a core set of Values, and those Core Values permeate through the very being of both companies. It’s a rare sight. Both CEOs and their executive teams realize their BHAG simply can’t be accomplished without adherence to their Values.
  • Strategic Thinking: Both CEOs recognize the value of being strategic in their thinking, of learning, of growing. They admit they don’t know it all and look to the collective wisdom of those around them (which includes their customers).
  • Commitment to Excellence: Both are committed to excellence, and they’re both in constant search of it. It’s a cycle that never rests.

Seeing both companies in action is a great demonstration of how a BHAG is supported by so many other elements—every single day. The foundation is set with a strong dedication to a small set of Core Values, with a commitment to their reason for being (Purpose), and with a dedication to not only do things but to do things right (Brand Promise). It’s their foundation that is steadily leading them in the direction of what they aspire to be (BHAG). I have no doubt they’ll get there.


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Cathy McCullough


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images