Make sure everyone has the same interpretation of the goal
Without any prior discussion, get each person involved in setting the goal to write down how its achievement will look to them. Then compare notes. Only when you are clear on each other’s perceptions can you work together in a constructive and compatible way. You may even decide the goal is not going to work for that particular partnership or someone’s ideas are just not compatible with the aims of the group and they need to drop out.
A simple business example:
Harriet and Horace decide to pool their consulting and training talents and form a partnership. They set a goal to create a highly profitable training organisation called Upyouract Inc within two years. Harriet’s picture of Upyouract Inc: A cutting edge training organisation that specialises in custom designed change management workshops for small to medium-sized organisations with a creative and global focus. Gradually bringing on board a small, handpicked group of profit-sharing contractors. A net profit of $100,000 per annum each. Horrace’s picture of Upyouract Inc: An innovative training organisation specialising in government and corporate contracts for departmental change management. A team of employed trainers who would work from a master training manual. A net profit of $75,000 per annum each. Now you may think it is obvious that all this would have been discussed when Harriet and Horace first decided to team up, but as it happensthey were both so full of enthusiasm they didn’t get this straight with each other right from the start. It’s amazing how many business partnerships are formed and goals set without detailed discussion and agreement on specifically how the achieved goal will look to each person involved. The differing pictures are discovered as the path to the goal becomes rocky and blocked with opposing perceptions.
A simple personal example:
John and Mary have a goal that by 2010 they’re going to have a wonderful holiday together in Europe. John’s picture of the goal: On the trip we will visit theatres, restaurants and museums. We’ll stay in hotels and catch up with lots of family and friends. Mary’s picture of the goal: We’ll go on a driving tour of Europe with a bit of hiking at scenic spots. We’ll stop at country pubs and bistros, and avoid family as much as possible. See what I mean! There is nothing wrong with either visualisation of the trip, each of which simply reflects John and Mary’s individual values and aspirations. But unless they compare notes and sort it out before they leave, neither of them will have that ‘wonderful’ holiday they were hoping for. They’ll end up fighting and resenting each other. I’m sure you can think of someone who has had a similar experience with their personal or business partners. It’s also essential to make sure everybody in the group has their own personal reasons for wanting the goal and can perceive rewards for achieving it. In this way they can fully own the task ahead and share the challenge and inspiration. Someone else’s reasons are not good enough! That’s not to say your goals can’t be linked with another’s – so long as you are clear that it is something you really want.
Imposed business goals:
This is yet another scenario. The CEO sets the goal and then department heads and employees right down the line are expected to embrace it as their own. There are lots of pitfalls here and some clever team-building strategies are needed to define common goals. Try these:
- For small business owners it can work well to bring your senior employees in on the goal-setting process. Present the overall goal and ask each one how they feel about it and what they see their role being in the goal’s achievement. Then involve everyone in the setting and validating of the departmental/individual goals they will have to achieve to make the organisational goal happen.
- As a business owner or departmental head you may already know what each employee’s goal needs to be in measurable terms. Yet it will have so much more meaning and hope of success if those employees can recognise and validate their own goals rather than simply have it assigned to them. Make sure they also identify what the personal benefits and rewards will be for them in achieving the goal.
Having said that, nothing is set in stone around goal-planning. You will find that some employees simply want to be told what to do and resist being involved in setting the goal or being accountable for achieving it. Quite a bit of discussion and explanation – even outside help – may be needed to get them to see and adopt the benefits of the accountability culture.