Goal setting, goal clarification, goal oriented behaviors…I focus a lot on goals. I mean, everything we do is goal directed. If a person has no goal directed behaviors we worry about them. There are a few schools of thought on goals and how to achieve them. I came across a systems approach in an article the other day. It kind of reminded me of Taylorism but I don’t want to be too critical here, I’m sure the writer had some motivation for coming up with it. That said, systems are an important piece of achieving just about anything. You have to have a process, an outline, to make it happen (I have the Power Up!™ process that I use with some of my clients). However, without a clear goal you can’t develop a winning system or process. The goal comes first, no matter what.
Think about it this way. You’re preparing to host Thanksgiving dinner for ten people. Your goal is to ensure that you have it all complete by 5:00pm. You know you need turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and veggies. You need a system to put this all together or you’ll end up with an undercooked turkey and overcooked everything else. Ultimately your goal is a fully prepared delicious meal. What is the point of a system if there is no goal? You wouldn’t be preparing this meal if you hadn’t already invited all the attendees. Otherwise your system, and all the energy you put into it, is for naught. Conversely, this is a pretty big project and it requires some methodology to pull it off. So, you need be mindful of the goal to make the whole thing work.
This is how goal attainment works. In fact, without a clear goal how can you even put a system into place? Everyone is working toward something. But when you start to develop an assembly line thought process or you work like an automaton, you lose sight of your goal and you can start feeling very unfulfilled. There is more than a decade of research that has found that happiness and well being are tied directly to having goals (not necessarily reaching them, but having them and working toward them).
When I coach a new client the first thing we discuss is the goal. After all, that’s what they’re paying me for; to help them identify the behaviors or attitudes they need to engage in to reach a goal. It’s pretty straightforward. The difficulty is getting clarity. Everyone has said, at one time or another, something like this “I’m not sure what I want, I just know this is not it.”
In these situations, there are three things to think about when you need to clarify a goal.
1) What am I missing?
This is an important question. In your career it may be financial or be related to work satisfaction, a sense of appreciation, or direction in your career. The missing component can be caused by a poor manager, company downsizing, a lack of development or education on your part. I am a proponent of achievement oriented vocabulary so once you decide what you’re missing it’s a good idea to restate it in achievement oriented language.
2) What am I hoping to achieve?
Once you figure out what you’re missing and you have restated it into something achievable (get a promotion, move career forward) then you can hone in on what exactly you want to achieve. For example, in step 1 once you realize your career is not moving in the direction you want it to, you restate that you want your career to progress in X manner. It’s vague but that’s OK, that was just the beginning. It’s at this step that you decide on what you are hoping to achieve and you can add that to the statement. “I want my career to move forward with more responsibility and higher level positions. I will earn a certificate in X so I can begin to apply to the position I really want.”
3) How do I make this happen?
This is where things get exciting. This is also where most coaching takes place. It’s here where a system or process is important. But you can’t develop or engage in the system until you’ve identified what you’re missing and what you hope to achieve. It’s after the goal is identified that the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that one needs to succeed are developed more fully. This is the place where you practice your skills, change your perceptions, do something different or new. This is what I call an Action Step. Once you start to act toward achieving the goal, there should be no stopping you.
Now that you have your goals set, “Make it so” – Captain Jean Luc Picard.