• Donald Davis

GOAL! What you want to be done

In soccer I love hearing the announcer yell G O A L!!!! When someone achieves a goal in my head I hear the same sound. If you want people reaching for something specific then you should be specific about the GOALS that are set for your people.

When I started in consulting I had just left a growing flourishing startup. One interesting struggle within the startup exists at the senior executive level. The senior executives had talked to me about putting in place goals and objectives using the Google OKR method. After a lot of back and forth the executives finally settled on goals that had a combination of achievable and stretch. Culturally in a small organization instituting goals was a completely foreign process to many people.

Based on this example I decided to try and interview growing companies that should have goals in place and ask what they did to set and manage goals with their people. Out of >50 interviews of leaders with companies producing between $20 Million and $50 Million in revenue 78% of the companies did not set individual goals they used the revenue of the company or other means to ensure that they were getting the work done.

As the leader of the company when you are in a small organization you are laser-focused on getting what needs to happen to ensure that you survive. The reason why Vision is so important is that it should aim everyone’s compass in the same direction. Secondarily, goals break down what everyone in an organization is going to do to contribute to that end goal. If you want everyone to be building towards the end goal of achieving your vision, their goals are going to have to in some way benefit the vision.

Setting/Buiding Goals The way to set goals should be based on a cascade of goals from the top. When the vision is achieved what will the CEO need to do? What do the SVP’s or VP’s need to do? What are the Directors and their teams needing to do to meet the vision? Goals must be specific. The more detail about what will define the goal the better. Goals need to be measurable. How will you measure success? What key results need to be achieved to succeed with the goal? If you are implementing stretch goals 70% of the goals should still be clearly achievable with the remaining 30% being things that would really raise the bar if they happen.

Accountability Leaders and their people need to be accountable for achieving their goals. If you are really serious about setting goals and having people take them seriously they should come with some level of accountability. In leading people, you should randomly ask them about their goals and have at minimum monthly check-ins on their performance. When your people are on track with their goals help them celebrate. When they are off track with their goals engage and help them solve the challenge if needed.

Goals Analogy When I was little every year we would make the trek from Northwest Indiana to my Grandfathers house in Bemidji, MN. At the time I can remember that this was roughly a 12+ hour trip from our house to grandpas house. In the 70’s we did not have GPS so the only way to get there was to first look at the map and plot out all of the key turns along the way.

In this analogy Bemidji, MN was our Vision it was where we wanted to be. There were signposts along the way that told us if we were going in the right direction or not. The key turns that had to be made along the way were the goals for the trip and if we were ever off of the path that we needed to be on the process of getting the maps out to plot a course correction would be initiated.

Warning – This is how to fail with goals I have observed what happens when people are punished or even fired because of not meeting their goals and objectives. When I am asked what happened with GE, I often start with my impression of where they went off the rails. Each year goals would be set higher and higher at ridiculous levels. My integrity is something I believe in dearly so when my leaders would add unachievable goals we would have a conversation that normally was not pleasant on their end. I would not mind having a goal that was a stretch goal as long as it was labeled as such. I would put every last bit of effort into trying to make it happen but sometimes it was not achievable and I was not about to be let go for not meeting the expectation.

There were leaders who would say that they were meeting or exceeding these ridiculous targets. But in reality, if you looked at the data without all of their filters you would quickly see that these leaders were actually misrepresenting, gaming or shielding the results.

The ultimate bad behavior is to shade, game or shield results from leaders so that you cannot see that someone is actually not keeping up with their goals. In a small company, this can be disastrous because larger problems will occur that will uncover the lack of performance. If the problem is big enough it could cause the company to fail to meet its goals or even worse the final vision may not be possible because of this happening. In GE’s case, the current company that the team is trying to recover is a shell of what it used to be. Because leaders did not understand what was happening right in front of them it cost 10’s of thousands of people their jobs and the profit levels of the company are at an all time low.

Goal Post I outlined the Analogy and the Warning so that I could say this. Good leaders own the goals of their people. You should stretch the capabilities of your people but also understand that there is a breaking point. When a course correction is needed as a good leader you should own the solution with them. Dig into the numbers, make people explain what they are leaving out and by all means go and look for yourself.

This past weekend I watched a (American) football game where the kicker missed the goal three times in a row. It is easy enough to say that he should have aimed a little more in the other direction to put it straight through the uprights. As a professional kicker, I am certain that he was making corrections but the announcer mentioned that the air in the stadium was changing. When your people are having trouble meeting their goals what are they doing to correct the problem? If the answer is nothing as a leader there is not much that you can do. However, if they tried everything in their power it is now your turn to try and help them get their goal through the goal post.

Celebrate In the survey I conducted about setting goals none of the companies thought about celebrating achieving goals. If people are helping you get closer to your vision you should celebrate their work. Gamification is a tremendous way to get people motivated to outperform their goals. Big companies often reward their top performers with special training, plaques etc. If you want people to know that this is important you could even host a celebration dinner with their significant other and recognize people publicly.

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