Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Time - Part 5: Setting a Goal

This is part 5 of in a series of short essays on fundamentals of leadership. While it is drafted for those who have just moved into their first leadership position, I hope there is a little something in here for the most practiced of leaders, a ‘getting back to basics’ that everyone needs every now and then.

In the previous article I talked about building your first plan. You are probably thinking that this looks very simplistic – it is. Plans, and procedures, should be kept as simple as possible. They will grow extremely complex extremely fast, so ‘simple is good.’

As you get started, the initial purpose of the plan is simply to allow you to establish some control over the whirlwind around you. Everyone feels the occasional moment of confusion whenever they take over any organization. Establishing a schedule, a basic plan, gives you the first element of control over that ‘whirlwind.’

But, you may well ask ‘Don’t you need a goal before you have a plan?’ The obvious answer is ‘Yes.’ But you already have a goal; you were given it, implicitly or explicitly, when you were placed in charge of the division. The boss may have spelled it out, or he might assume you know. Irrespective, that goal is now your goal – at least to begin.

The next step is to set some new goals – your goals. Why? Because your goals should be YOUR goals; it’s that simple. First, the new goals have to include, at a minimum, the goals your boss gave you. But, add to that – what’s doable? Push a little beyond that. Talk it over with your deputy – if you have one, or a friend, your spouse, anyone you trust. Then, after refining, talk it over with your people. Get them involved – let the conversation include them and let it become THEIR goal. And then challenge them. This is how the goal will become possible: because they will want it. Your goal goes through a metamorphosis and becomes their goal – and now all you are doing is making sure they have what they need and helping them achieve.

Now: Brief the boss – one of the most powerful things you can do is to develop new – and greater goals and motivate your people with those goals. But it means nothing if your boss won’t let you seek those goals. And he may not if he thinks it is going to ‘cost him.’ So you need to sell your goals to the boss. You need to show some simple things: how these new goals can be achieved, how they will help the organization, and how they will improve the bottom line – long term as well as short term. If your goals not only help him achieve his goals but also pushes his organization beyond those goals – he looks good. And that means he will back your goals.


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