When working through the trough of chaos in the midst of interesting times, everyone is setting goals and trying to get them accomplished. Some days there are spectacular results and other days we are mediocre at best. So what is a leader to do?
First, set SMART goals, i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. This sounds easy, but it is not easy. Most of the time when I get called in as a consultant to figure out why things are not working right within a group or a company, the problem is with the goals. They are not written clearly or are so broad that doing anything will result in “success.” In situations like this, the goals are accomplished but nothing actually got done or changed.
One small secret to successful goal setting is to create planned short term wins. Remembering the research of John Kotter in his book, Leading Change, short term wins build confidence and clarity for longer term outcomes. They also help you as the leader deal with the common problem of complacency where everyone is comfortable with a dysfunctional level of status quo rather than doing the true work of in-depth change management and execution.
The other problem with goal setting is that it is directly connected to decision-making. Most leaders think that decision-making is the singular act of making a decision. The best leaders understand that it is a four part process of preparing to make a decision, making a decision, executing a decision, and then evaluating the decision to see if it worked out effectively. This four step decision-making framework could also be translated into a four step model for setting goals, i.e. preparing to set goals, setting goals, executing the goals that are set, and finally evaluating the goals that have been set.
For us here today, the intersection between goal setting and decision-making revolves around the idea that the goal of setting a goal and making the right decisions is not just to get something done. The goal of these two steps is to build shared commitment and shared advocacy for future goals and future decisions. Anyone can get something done. The best leaders want you to get it done and in the end feel like you have accomplished something worth doing. This level of ownership and confidence of the process and the outcome helps you, the leader and the company take on the inevitable next round of problems.
This week, review the goals that you are working on this quarter. Are they SMART goals? If not, rewrite them so they are more focused and actionable. Next, ask your direct reports how they are using goals as they make important decisions. This line of inquiry will be helpful for you and for them. Remember goal setting and decision-making are interconnected.