The Ivory Tower Approach
You’ve likely experienced “The Ivory Tower Approach” to goal communication. This is where management hands down your new goals with little or no discussion. The expectations are dictated with no questions asked. The underling assumption is that since the goals originate from a position of authority, they will be instantly, automatically and whole heartedly embraced by all followers. Let’s take a closer look at this assumption.
Goal Setting as A Process
Imagine you are a commercial airline pilot responsible for the safe delivery of a plane full of passengers to their scheduled destination.
The successful outcome of your flight depends on precise completion of a series of proven, sequential processes. What happens when you alter a sequence? What if you changed the process and retracted the landing gear while the plane was still on the ground? You would need a very good reason to jeopardize the outcome of the flight while dropping a $45 million aircraft and 200 paying passengers to the pavement. Why do I offer this seemingly silly example? It’s because I routinely see businesses shortcut or abandon their critical processes in similar fashion. And then they wonder: What happened?
This blog’s name, SMART Leadership, is derived from an acronym for the eight elements of the goal setting process that we use with our clients, as outlined on the right.
Similar to preparing for airliner take-off, short-cutting any single element of the goal setting process will also jeopardize your outcome. An often overlooked element is “attainable“. Have you ever worked in an organization where the goals were viewed as unattainable? What happened to your commitment? What was the level of frustration? What happened to achievement? Yet how often do we see unrealistic goals handed down from above without concern for buy-in?
So, how should we apply what we know about process and attainability to improve execution?
- Effective goal setting for your critical initiatives should be treated as a process. That is, a sequence of steps or events that produce a desired outcome. Ignoring any of the eight elements above will compromise your likelihood for achievement.
- To support the critical element of attainability, consider the words of Henry Ford: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”
As a leader, ask yourself: How strong are your people’s beliefs in your desired outcomes? Who is responsible for instilling those beliefs? Neglecting to assure goal attainability can have the same grounding effect as retracting your landing gear prior to take-off.
When achievement wanes from lack of commitment, we can lose faith in the process and possibly dismiss goal setting as an unrealistic practice. We then throw the baby out with the bath water. How often do we then start some new initiative without understanding what went wrong with the old one?
Attainability is just one of eight critical elements for your pre-flight checklist for achievement. What short-cuts might you be taking any with the other seven criteria? How are your outcomes being affected? Are you ever guilty of retracting your landing gear before take-off by cheating the goal setting process?
Are You a Dictator or a Collaborator?
Formal leadership is about getting results through others. Collaboration and understanding motivation are critical leadership skills. As a leader, isn’t it your responsibility to assure that your followers buy-in to your goals?
How would your followers rate you when it comes to:
- Understanding Motivation?
- Setting and Planning the Achievement of SMART Goals?
- Inspiring Commitment?
If you could improve these critical leadership skills, how much more might your team achieve?
As a leader, organizational goal setting is something you do with your team, not to them.