Set Goals to Prevent “Rambo Syndrome”

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What do King Kong, Rambo, and Mel Gibson all have in common? Aside from dimples and a gentle disposition, they all act before they think. On screen, it’s exciting; off-screen, it’s a disaster, as depicted by Gibson’s rap sheet. Seldom do we solve problems when shooting from the hip and the same rule applies to communications, yet we don’t always follow it. Remember, this is not the Wild Wild West; spurs will get stuck in escalator, Segways cannot replace horses, and actions cannot preface goals.

Communications problems are too often seen as existing inside of a vacuum, or without a deeper cause, and we scramble to aid them. When we subscribe to this fallacy, we open the door for our not-so-kind friend, the knee-jerk “solution,” to walk in and take the seat of a well-rounded campaign. Success is now unlikely, but wasted time is almost guaranteed.

Goal setting will prevent “Rambo Syndrome” and the “hip-shot,” as well as dictate the tone of the rest of your campaign.

Consider This Scenario:

You run a business whose mission is to prepare 20-somethings for job interviews. Joe Doe walks into your office and tells you he that landed the interview of his dreams, that he only has 2 days to prepare and – before he is able to finish, your attention shifts to the knot under his collar. It looks like Courtney Love: a little questionable.

So, you dedicate the next two days to teaching your client how-to tie a Full Windsor.

The big day comes around and your client strolls into the interview with a toothpick hanging from his lip and a denim jacket slung over his shoulder. He’s doused in cologne, wearing tweed capris, and chomping gum like he’s ascending Everest.

The knot under his collar, though: absolutely flawless.

One week later, Joe receives a rejection e-mail (that’s how it’s done now) and calls you with a broken heart, a hatred for Full-Windsors (shame), and a demand for a refund.

Shooting from the hip reduced your unsaid goal of helping Joe ace his interview – looking the part, sounding the part, and articulating the part – to a single action’s outcome: tying a knot. The subsequent failure came from diagnosing a symptom, a sloppy tie, instead of one of several greater problems, Joe’s overall professional appearance. Alone, symptom solutions are useless; together, you can accomplish what it is you set out to do in the first place. That requires a goal, and here are three ways to set it, and not forget it.

Situation: Sally, CEO of Company X, calls you and tells you she must speak at the next Albany Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce event to save her business. What do you do?

1.    Understand the business

Take a step back, think as a consultant, and ask questions. Understanding a client’s business is crucial to understanding its problems. Determine what constitutes success. Is it increased sales, new members, or consumer mindshare? Interview multiple departments at Company X to determine the PR/marketing mix looks like currently and what is or isn’t working? Gather information, synthesize it, and use it to…

2.    Identify the real problem

Once you understand the metrics by which success is measured and how the business functions, you can then pinpoint the real problem. Sally’s concern may not be the root issue, but it is an indicator of the larger problem: a lack of visibility within the target market. Focusing on the smaller challenge will only lead to more firefighting and frustration. Use this finding to…

Define the goal

The first goal would read: build the visibility of Sally’s business among local technology companies and professionals. When we spell it out, it’s clear that “success” will requires more than one move, more than one speaking engagement, but it will lead to sustainable, measurable momentum and growth. The actions you can plan from there are endless, and smart.

The Take-a-Way

  1. French philosopher Henri Bergson said, “Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.” Consider the items that you can influence and dismiss the ones that you can’t. Don’t act on symptoms; act on the root problem.
  2. When feeling lost or discouraged, revisit your goal, and ask yourself if what are you are doing right now is bringing you closer to achieving it.
  3. Don’t spend two-days mastering the Full Windsor (it takes at least six).


Vincent Barr is a Marketing Coordinator at Triumvirate Environmental, Blogger for the Times Union, and Mentor-Coach at New York Needs You. He currently attends Columbia University and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2008. To contact him or learn more:

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