Progress, Not Perfection

Alex KaarFeatured Progress, Not Perfection
Steve Kitto

Progress, Not Perfection


As you set out to accomplish your well-being goals, you’ll inevitably commence with gusto, but as time goes by, reality sets in and your goals feel further away and harder to reach. Conjuring the required energy each day proves difficult and after a few weeks, your motivation falters.  As your habits slide, you not only exercise less, but you make poor nutritional choices and after a while, the idea of a salad just sounds like a joke and if it doesn’t come with chips, then frankly it’s not worth eating…  


Fast forward three months and the ghosts of your gallant attempt to achieve “perfect health” are still there to haunt you – The gym membership you don’t use anymore that’s stuck on your key ring. The bike that sits in the garage, now covered in a tarp, or the weights set that’s now buried under empty booze boxes that you’ve been meaning to recycle but, you know… meh.  You don’t sleep as well and not just because you don’t exercise, but you’ve lost the feeling of achievement and your conscience knows it.   


I’ve trained at an elite level my entire life and I’ve experienced all the emotions outlined above, but they’ve only been temporary and I’ve always been able to get myself back on track quickly.  I’ve also found that my gym training prepared me incredibly well for the world of business and my role as an executive search consultant, as there are many elements in mindset that directly overlap with physical training. 


The mind helps the body and the body helps the mind.


It’s this ongoing, complementary relationship between mind and body that I attribute to my success in achieving my professional and physical goals.  


Goal Setting  


Know your capability – Have you heard the phrase “You can do anything you put your mind to”? Total rubbish! There are many things I’ll never be able to do.  I’m too short to play in the NBA, I don’t have the knees to be a runner… the list goes on.  Just because you think you can do something, it doesn’t mean you can.  


Every goal you set for yourself needs to be based on a series of objectives executed via a definitive action plan, or a series of smaller projects.  Keep your personal and professional objectives realistic and be specific regarding the outcome.  It’s okay to recognise what you can and can’t do.  Accept everything you are AND everything you aren’t and work with that.  


Horizon Thinking – Outcome Based Approach 


In business, horizon three, four or five thinking is paramount in obtaining trust from a Board of Directors or a CEO.  They primarily answer to a shareholder group who are comforted by the longevity of their investment, which often creates an environment for navel gazing.  I strongly encourage leaders to focus on daily and weekly (horizon one) activity, which is the pathway to reach their horizon five goal:  


“What am I going to achieve today?”  

“How are my team and customers going to get better as a result of my actions at the end of the day?” 

“How am I building advocacy internally?” 


This is an outcome-based approach, not a task-based approach. An outcomebased approach allows you to work backwards from your outcome and set the tasks required to achieve that outcome.  


Don’t begin your day with: 

“What am I going to do?” 


Introduce that action ONLY when you know what you want to achieve.  Don’t set out to achieve perfection.  You should set out to achieve progress.  The notion of; assess, action, assess, action, assess, action is pivotal to your ongoing development and will help you achieve far greater returns than focusing on long term goals.  


Business leaders who spend too much time assessing long term opportunities and coming up with recommendations is safe territory – It’s largely unaccountable in the short term.  Changing systems, processes, incentives, platforms, organisation structures and revising goals is much higher risk (for the business and the individual), but higher reward.   


Partners – Train with the best 


Work with people, hire people and train people that will push you to be the best version of yourself. When you surround yourself with the best talent, progress seems to flow more freely.  Your business acumen will rise with the tide around you. My first training partner placed third in the World Body Building Titles and my first business coach won a global award for operational excellence.   


The best ideas can come from the mail room, the shop floor or the warehouse, rather than the boardroom.  Guy Russo (formerly CEO, K-Mart) would walk the floor and ask the service staff how their day was.  An honest response from service staff changed the SKU number and range in one of K-Mart’s largest apparel portfolios.   


Persistence and Method  


The excitement surrounding a revised business strategy can make a team feel energised, committed and invested.  The incubation period is always exciting, but the danger is when you are two years into a three year project and the enthusiasm and engagement levels may subside. This is where great leaders shine, because progress is visible and the engagement of employees is tangible. Shortfalls and setbacks are inevitable, but great leaders can continue to drive forward when the notion of “progress” has clarity.  The same principle relates to our health.  


I was tasked with going to the gym by my specialist to maintain muscle density when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in my early 20’s.  A decade dedicated to nutrition, training disciplines, techniques, biochemistry, biomechanics and goal setting allowed me to bridge the gap between my capabilities and my ambition, however at some point I plateaued.  It was time to reflect, learn and action.  What were my revised goals? I asked myself WILL they be achievable and WHY should I set them? 


The company you work for might be growing presently, however it’s not possible to, for example; double revenue every year, year on year for the entire lifecycle of a business.  How was I going to continue growing and improving at an exponential rate?  It was time to find a new gear to switch into.  This was the catalyst for me to compete in national bodybuilding competitions.  Weekly objectives were geared around delicate routine adjustments and a great training partner.  Some days I experienced set-backs but I’d always ask myself – “What did I learn, if I saw no improvement?” 


If your organisation sets a goal to be the market leader and comes second, don’t change the goal, change the method.  This motivates you to draw on experiences, action your learnings and propel forward. In the corporate world we call this ‘Failing Forward.’  




After a successful campaign based on progress, training and nutrition strategy, I achieved my goal to compete in a National Bodybuilding Competition and finished 3rd. Among the personal glory, there was still the overwhelming reality that this was a contest…and I didn’t win.   


In my role I enjoy connecting our network to create career opportunities. Unfortunately joy for one is often followed by disappointment for others.  Here lies the greatest opportunity to be resilient, gather feedback, assess, learn and action with the support of a good business coach.  


It was time to redefine my purpose and as a father of 6…yes 6,  my focus on my work, well-being, vitality, diet, sleep, mindset and more importantly, family.  To achieve this, I continue to break down my goals into daily actions.  It is the sum of these actions that will allow me to achieve the larger, longer term goals.   


Be better at the end of the day than you were at the start of the day.  

Steve Kitto

Steve Kitto manages a portfolio of clients across the Retail, Logistics, Supply Chain, Procurement and Property sectors.

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