Five years ago we started Banyan with an eye for helping companies improve their performance, and we have sat in on numerous goal-setting sessions. Goals can make people be sick to their stomachs, and goals can be used as a weapon, but isn’t that kind of missing the whole point?
Today, we offer you a new way to look at goals and hope you might consider giving it a try in one area of your life. It starts with a mindset that focuses on goal attainment and uses the concept of school grades to dole out the rewards. If you reach 90% of the goal you get an A, 80% you get a B and so forth. C’s get degrees in school and historically is considered the average.
Yes, we can hear you thinking, that may be good for school, but this is the real world. If you don’t hit your goal, you might get fired!
Here is why you might want to take a closer look at this mindset if you are a leader. When you give your team a goal, you have 'goaled' them. This rhymes with scold. We think you should keep.....
that image in mind. Teams that are assigned goals do not stretch, or reach, and some of them don’t even think. They just deliver the goal and oftentimes will do so with a nice passive aggressive, up yours buried somewhere in the result.
You the leader lose out on a major chance for upside when you make the goal the minimum acceptable standard and think that your team will still work to exceed the goal because they want to go the extra mile.
The financial rewards that come with goals are highly motivating to some. However, the intrinsic motivators of choice, autonomy, competency, and progress can have a huge impact for your joint benefit. We are noticing that the following recipe can really pay off with your teams.
Share the goal attainment mindset with your team, and walk them through how the compensation will work, and how you are viewing job security tied to goal attainment. It is up to you if you want to let people go who are 79% to goal or 69% to goal. It is fair to assume that everyone knows a minimum acceptable standard is necessary. However what you are looking to accomplish is getting most of the fear out of the room and allowing for some creativity to show up. Fear based goal setting can get you 60% of a person’s focus. The other 40% will be based on self-preservation actions like looking for work elsewhere and kissing up internally just in case. When you dial down the fear, laziness doesn’t automatically show up. Initiative and collaboration have time to breed and the results can be fantastic.
Have an open ended conversation about what is actually possible with your team. This may take time as you switch to the goal attainment mindset, but a fair and brisk discussion about what could happen might be revealing. Leaders often don’t really know what others are thinking because it is not in the team’s best interest to share, as it might turn into an all or nothing goal. The lack of trust that is built by perform or perish goals is significant, and once you are openly hearing what might be possible from your team then you are on the right track.
Set up your goal tracking cadence and then listen for the stories. Meet on a regular basis and don’t skip these meetings, you have to be in the hospital to miss this meeting. It is that important that you, as the leader, are on this call. Listen for the stories, as they are a sign of something going differently than people had hoped. Don’t jump on them in public, but privately meet with the story teller and work through to what is changing. Identify if it is an internal issue like time management, or an external issue like a change of leadership at a large prospect. Address the issue right away and help keep this person in the process of the best actions that lead to success. Once your team is striving on their own towards a goal they want to achieve, they will start to fail. Don’t miss the chance to work through these failures together!
Treat success and failure as tools for everyone’s understanding and development. One of the side benefits of a goal attainment culture is it increases the amount of sharing. Everyone should be able to perform well enough to stick around, and now you are focused on getting everyone into the A category. When someone succeeds, share it. When someone is getting stuck, share it. As the leader set the example of not judging failure, but observing it. The difference is that judgement is looking for blame, and observation is seeking clarity. Creating a workplace with clarity of purpose is a leader’s job. On the pathway towards accomplishment the world will present obstacles. You want to know about the obstacles in your team’s path immediately.
Cultures of fear have worked for centuries. We are not saying they don’t work. We are offering an alternative mindset which can require more consensual interdependence between the leader and the team. We have seen it make a real impact and will continue to share our findings for leaders to consider.
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Drew Sanders Blog
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