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It Starts With Goals

It Starts With Goals

Not long ago, I was providing some coaching to a business leader. After we discussed some feedback she had received from her peers and direct reports, she asked me what I would recommend as an action plan. She seemed quite surprised at the question I then asked her: What are your goals?

Only if I know what someone’s goals are can I make meaningful recommendations. To put it another way: how can I offer someone direction if I don’t know where they’re going? The same premise is true for teams, business units, corporations, or any other entities. Yet it is not uncommon, feeling the pressure to take action, for leaders to make commitments without first considering his/her goals. I’ve heard this referred to as ‘ready, fire, aim!’

The principle of Putting Goals First applies in virtually all settings (except, perhaps, organizational values). Last week, I was discussing this with a client with whom I am supporting in Team Development. We were discussing the establishment of his team’s operating agreements. Again, he asked what I would recommend in terms of how the team would best work together, and I asked him what are you trying to accomplish. We then spent a full hour discussing his objectives in terms of staff development, innovation, resource sharing, team communication, and more.

I have also discussed this approach many times in the context of leadership development efforts. Leaders will ask me ‘what should I be doing to be more successful’ and my response will be ‘what does success mean for you and for your business?’ In other words, what are your individual and organizational goals? Goals must be identified before I can offer my best recommendations and strategies as a consultant.

In another column I might share some ideas about how to effectively set goals. For now, it is important to remember to put goals in front of planning and execution, so as to be sure that what we are doing will support us in reaching the place we want to go.