In Edumacation

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New Years Business Resolution #2

Set a goal, envision it a hundred ways, keep your focus, break it into smaller goals, track progress, measure results, report on results = happiness and success, right?

If it’s so simple, then why is it so hard?

When we set a goal, we know what we want – we want the result. The inherent problem here is that the act of setting the goal defers the value to a future state, or a future date. And each of us has come to learn through personal experience that the reward may, or may not, materialize. And if it does, it’s never as good as we imagined it to be.

We have effectively said: ‘when we reach this goal, we will be happy’ – in other words, ‘we’re not happy now’ or ‘we’re not good enough, now’. But that’s not all. The background to this narrative is the little voice that says ‘we like the old way, we’ll never reach this goal, this is a waste of time, this is too hard.’

Not only is this not motivating – it’s downright depressing.

Here’s an alternative – let’s make the work the reward. We can create workplaces where people do what they do for more reasons than getting to point B.

There’s a lot of highly credible research that describes exactly what motivates people; we just can’t seem to get our heads (and our organizations) around it.

An example: Our goal is to improve the speed of our response to customers by 25%, while we increase our efficiency, within 6 months. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timebound).

There is nothing wrong with this, but there is one thing that is implied here, and three things missing.

The implication is that before we make this change, things are not good; and after we make this change, everything will be great. We say this all the time in organizational change. The reality is that some things about the current system are good, and should be protected as you move forward; and some things about the new system won’t be great at all, at least initially, until you get them worked out. Starting out with this tone gives you credibility, makes everyone human and it gives you room to adapt as you go.

The three things that are missing in our SMART goal example are the three things that truly motivate people: mastery, autonomy and purpose.

Mastery is the ability for people to become very good at something – masters, in fact. This can be incredibly motivating, because it makes people relevant to the organization. We demean mastery every time we try to do what that other person does, despite the fact that they have invested in educating themselves, and have years of experience. Everyone wants to deepen their expertise, and be recognized for it.

Give everyone in your organization the freedom to master their craft, through clear and protected roles and responsibilities.

Autonomy is the ability for people to make decisions within their area of expertise. We minimize this whenever we describe how the people we hired should get to point B. Authority is the key here – What do people have the authority to do? Where does that authority end?

Purpose is the meaning in the work. Why should we care about the speed of our response to customers? Because at the pharmacy counter, our customers are elderly, they’re mothers with young children, they’re people who are ill, sometimes worried and afraid. They just want to get off their feet and back home.

Being more responsive to people when they need us is a purpose that motivates.

So introduce your goals. But as you do, add the following four pieces:

  1. Credibility – Be realistic about the process of change. Resource it well. Signal that you’re open to hearing bad news. Talk about what’s worth keeping. Describe your goals as directions and measures, not outcomes.
  2. Mastery – Understand what your leaders excel at and protect that space for them, through clear roles and responsibilities. Encourage them to do the same for others.
  3. Autonomy – If this is new to your organization, try it just this once, for this goal only. Give specific people the authority to determine how they will reach your goal within their area of expertise – but don’t abandon them in it. Review their plans and ideas, support what you can, redirect if you must.
  4. Purpose – Define your purpose and lead with it; measure against it; use it to test your resource allocation and other major decisions. Be the torch bearer for your purpose and walk the talk. This kind of leadership is not about personality, power or influence. It’s about giving meaning to people’s daily work.

When people have the respect to master their craft and the authority to make their own decisions about something that is truly meaningful to them, the goals you set forth become roadsigns, signalling direction and speed, as your organization evolves to better serve your purpose.

The added bonus: People will be happier to come to work everyday.

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