I had everything planned for this week’s discourse… A heart-felt confessional of my fears and concerns with respect to my role as leader. But, as typically happens, another issue came to my attention, one which I could not overlook.
I still consider this, the 9th week of the year 2011, to be the beginning of the year, a time in which the rest of the year’s course is still unsettled. Will it be a year of success or a year of failure? That is a trick question, my friends, because you cannot know whether it will be a successful year or a failure without one important piece of information– the goals for the year. Seriously, how can you measure success or failure if you don’t have goals?
So as the year is still in its infancy, I am working on and finalizing my goals for the year and the goals I have set for my firm. Think goals are unimportant? I used to…
I used to have goals– I was going to pass the Bar exam, become a partner in a law firm, get married and have kids. I had completed my goals by the time I was 30 years old– what then? Roll with the punches, bide my time, then retire. Without goals, that makes for an unfulfilling career. How will I know, at the end of my law practicing years, if I was a success if I never set any goals?
Have you seen “The Social Network” yet? If you haven’t, hopefully you are at least familiar with the subject matter, the inception and litigation associated with Facebook. What on earth does a social networking website have to do with goal setting?
If the legend (and movie) are to be believed, Facebook was started in a Harvard dorm room by Mark Zuckerberg, with the financial backing and support of his roommate, Eduardo Saverin. The movie tracks the history of Facebook as told through the numerous depositions that were taken in the various litigated matters concerning the creation and ownership of Facebook. One lawsuit, brought by other students of Harvard, was founded on the allegation that Zuckerberg stole the idea from Facebook. The other lawsuit, and the one which affected me more strongly, was the lawsuit filed by Saverin.
The facts of the lawsuit are inconsequential; however, suffice it to say that Zuckerberg’s actions served to destroy his relationship with his only friend and resulted in protracted litigation and a presumably large financial settlement. What stood out to me, and what was so glaringly obvious given my recent internal struggles, was the fact that the downfall of the relationship could have been prevented had Zuckerberg and Saverin sat down and done one small thing: set a goal.
Facebook took off and snowballed virtually overnight. However there were scenes in the movie in which the future of the company was questioned and it was clear that Zuckerberg and Saverin were not on the same page. In fact, there was no page at all. Saverin, as the financial backer for the company, had the idea of turning Facebook into a profit center by selling advertising space. Zuckerberg resisted, presumably because he was unwilling to give up any control over his creation; however he did not provide an alternative vision for the business.
Which made him vulnerable. Without a vision and without goals, he became impressionable, taken in by fast-talkers and smooth operators, and it quickly became clear that Zuckerberg and Saverin were going in opposite directions. But when it became all too clear that Zuckerberg and Saverin were in different places in their estimation of the future of Facebook, Zuckerberg had already taken steps to eradicate Saverin. Through corporate activity and abuse of Saverin’s trust, Zuckerberg literally stole the business from him.
As I watched the movie and witnessed the disintegration of the relationship, I couldn’t help but think that a goal-setting strategy session could have had a significant impact on the friendship. With a common goal, both partners pulling in the same direction, the relationship could have remained intact and litigation avoided.
In the grand scheme of things, this is perhaps not the best example in support of goal-setting. At the end of the day, Zuckerberg is still a multi-billionaire; the perception of him as a villain or an ego-maniac likely doesn’t cause him to lose sleep at night. But how many businesses are Facebook?
The vast majority of businesses will not reach Facebook-size status and it is only the select few who reach billionaire rank. The rest of us may not be able to roll with the punches of losing a partner and cannot withstand the impact of internal strife leading to litigation. So how do you ensure that this doesn’t happen, that everyone gets on the same page and pulls in the same direction?
Set a goal for the business. Get everybody to subscribe to the goal. Then keep track of the goal and check to make sure that steps are being taken to accomplish that goal.
At the end of the movie, one things is clear– Mark Zuckerberg is made to look like a loser. He has a billion-dollar business, but he is alone. When Facebook passes the threshold of one million users, he sits alone, no one to celebrate with. What should have been a defining moment for Zuckerberg and Saverin, an amazing accomplishment, instead instilled a feeling of pity for the loneliness that such success brought. Had a goal been set, the success would have been shared.
I’m setting a goal– and I can’t wait to share in the success. What good is succeeding alone?