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Goal setting 101

June 20, 2014

By Mark Hannum

For most of my early life, until well into my late 30s, I lived and worked within hearing distance of church bells or town bells that rang on the hour. From 7 AM until 10 PM each day, I knew what time it was without a watch or a clock. The bells gave my day a familiar structure and a comfort.

Of course keeping time with church bells is a horrible way to tell time. However, recognizing when a model, framework, or structure that’s so intertwined with our life (like the familiar structuture and comfort I received from hearing the bells ) is obsolete is difficult.

The same idea holds true with our mental models, our business models, and our leadership models too. If frameworks and schemas are wrong, we make incorrect assumptions and we ask the wrong questions. We can also see the right answers but we get in the way and make bad decisions. If we had better tools we’d see our world with more clarity. And if we see with more clarity we’ll arrive at better mental models and frameworks. We’ll make better decisions and act accordingly.

For instance, many of us are responsible for leadership development in our companies. But do we really know why one leader develops and another won’t? Have we gotten past our intuitive understanding to a data-driven understanding?

At the heart of leadership is simply the capability to engage larger and larger groups of people in committing to achieving a goal and then acting on it. Goal setting is in fact a skill that can be developed. But it requires the following:

  • Symbolism—Goals need to mean something.
  • Forcing function—Goals require propulsion.
  • Facilitation—Potential roadblocks to achieving the goal must be moved or circumvented.
  • Communication—Good communication is the foundation of all leadership.
  • Inspiration—The ability to inspire people to accomplish a goal is one of several traits that separates the leaders from the managers.
  • Follow-up—Goals don’t mean anything if you never actually achieve them. And achieving them often takes dogged perseverance.

It’s only when leaders learn how to set (and most importantly achieve) goals with five people, then fifty, then a couple hundred, can they be expected to skillfully set goals for a whole organization.

Do you have the right framework to help your people set goals skillfully and become better leaders? Or are you still listening to the bells? 

Hannum_MarkMark Hannum is a Linkage Principal at Linkage. He partners with clients to create better business results that incorporate both organizational justice and effectiveness. An organization development consultant by training, Mark’s focus has been on understanding and improving executive processes and decision-making.  Through his work with executive teams, leadership teams, and shared service organizations, his clients have credited him with helping them manage through difficult risks, improve business operations, lead and coach through acquisitions and integrations, and take advantage of growth opportunities.

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