How To Set A Goal That Will Inspire People to Work Together & Create Meaningful Change
Michael DeVenney
October 25, 2021

You want to do something that matters, now and in the future. You want to set a goal that will inspire people to work together to make something meaningful happen. You need it, we need it.

What goal makes sense right now?

We are a community mired in uncertainty. As consumers, we are uncertain about our futures and hesitant to spend. With our businesses, we are uncertain what sales will look like, so we hold back our expenses to what is essential. It is a cycle that holds us back and until we can break the sense of feeling uncertain, we will be stuck.

Hear Michael & Brian discuss Aspiration Goals in more depth here

You are going to bring some certainty to your business. An aspirational goal is the answer. With a goal that matters and engages people, you will bring energy to your business setting a direction that motivates people to take actions and move the world forward a bit. A goal that people will aspire to accomplishing will shake some of complacency and get the heart rate moving again.

In your senior team meeting, you speak to the need of setting a goal. And then you hear it; a cost cutting goal from your CFO, a marketing goal from your CMO, a process efficiency goal from your COO, a digital transition goal from your CTO – wait. You have heard this before and it does not move you, and it will not move anyone else. They mean well, but it is the same lines you heard three months ago, and probably will hear again in three months from now. You put your head down, and spin around in your chair – that is what it feels like, just spinning around in circles.

You end the meeting and head home. You need a break and share your thoughts with your partner. What you hear is the truth. What do you expect sitting in the same room with the same people? The same thing – not a surprise. Why don’t you get out of your office and hear what other people are saying, what matters to everyone on the frontline? Maybe something will inspire you. And do not tell me what your advisory group recommended – they do not know your people and they are mainly living their past through their advice to you. Again, they mean well, just the same thing again. Get out of your own way. Go to the people that matter – your employees. The old command-and-control approach does not work, the tell-and-sell path is worn down, maybe you should try collaboration. It is a big word and rather than just talking about it, put it into action.

Tough to hear, but honest - if you want different results, why not try something different.

Setting goals should not be such a struggle. Why is it so difficult to choose an outcome that you care about, and make it happen? It just does not make sense that if we want something enough, we do not follow through on our intention.

You are right. It should not be this difficult to set and achieve goals with the results you want to see. But it is. In working with hundreds of companies over almost twenty years, it is not the crisis holding us back from moving goals forward, it is how we do it. Only 17% of goals are achieved as planned – that means 83% flounder! Wow, the odds are not with you on this one. And most goals lose steam after about 8 weeks. Our focus only lasts for 2 months! We keep adding to the plan and it becomes so complicated we forget why it mattered and turn our attention to something else that is in front of us.

Goals are not easy. We have found in our work three reasons business goals falter and fail. We do not set clear outcomes, we do not have realistic expectations, and most importantly, we do not include the people who will carry out the achievement of the goal. It is tough to commit to something you were not a part of in the beginning – no involvement, no investment.

So, what can you do differently to set a goal that will motivate people to align with the vision and commit their effort to making it happen?

You need to get out of your chair, out of your office, and maybe even out of your building. You have a few conversations to work through with people.

In working with clients, we recommend three steps will make all the difference in gaining commitment, or not. So, you are going to do some moving.

First, you want to ground the goal in creating value for the customer. You talk to customers and find out what is affecting them, what is important in their work, and what they need to help them be better. You are inspired just from the conversation and you realize that making a change for the customer means more to everyone than anything about the profit formula or process efficiency back at the office. All of us want to know our contribution matters to our customer (or stakeholder or audience, or whoever we serve) and makes their lives better.

Now you are on a mission. You know the goal should involve all parts of the organization – if goals do not include the whole company, you leave people behind. So, you walk around and ask everyone questions, spending time with people on the frontline, backline, and sideline. You have townhalls, you take surveys, and you listen. There is adrenaline, people are energized simply to be involved. You will always make the end decision as to the goal, except now everyone will see themselves in it.

You ask five simple questions: what one thing will create the most value for customers, what should leaders be using their time for to support progress, what needs to change, what is unacceptable, and what do they need to focus on as a team. You have it.

And the funny thing, in your conversations, as people opened up, you found out that they referred to the senior team offsites as “off-tracks” as things always went offside after one of those weekends. Nice, just what you needed to hear.

You have the right stuff now to set a goal. Now you shape a goal with bounded optimism. What? You have been reading a lot lately, so you are informed on these new terms. You want to set a goal that will stretch everyone, challenging people to learn and grow, and put just enough pressure on people without making them anxious. The achievement will mean something. Yet it needs to be realistic – no moonshots or any type of mooning for the goal. People need to believe it is possible, not so far out of reach it is not even worth trying. So, you catch on to bounded optimism and set a target that inspires people to reach further and have confidence that they will learn along the way what is needed to accomplish the outcome set.

Now you bring the raw goal outline to your senior team and with input from their areas of expertise, you shine up an aspirational goal, one that will make the difference you crave. You have done it.

You have crafted and communicated a goal that will transform the business – creating meaningful value for customers, involving everyone in the process, and pushing people to grow and be better. You cannot predict the future, but you can set a goal that moves people to see something ahead, a break in the cycle of uncertainty. You will shift and pivot as things play out while keeping the goal in sight and measure and share the progress to keep everyone engaged and on track.

This is an aspirational goal – one that inspires people, motivates teams to work together, creates value for the customer, and in turn the company, and makes a difference to everyone involved (and everyone was involved).

You just made a difference.

Or you could just sit in your boardroom with the same people talking about the same things and look forward to rehashing it all in six months. But that is not who you are.

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