As purveyor of effective goal planning for over two decades, I am more aware than most folks about how goal setting is used and misused. When I recently discovered the term “Anti-Goals”, my curiosity peaked. Is this backlash for pursing goals?
I’ve discovered and documented some really good reasons for people to sour on the idea of goal setting. Here are three examples of how and when using goal setting as a leadership tool can fail.
Before discussing the idea of Anti-Goals, here’s a quick look at why anyone would want to add the “anti” prefix to a perfectly good word like goal.
How do Goals Can Get a Bad Rap? Some Examples
Arbitrarily Setting the Bar Unrealistically High
Your people must believe. What happens when the prevailing belief is: “The goals are unattainable”:
- How is morale effected?
- What happens to engagement?
- How likely is success?
Has this ever happened to you? How did you feel?
It’s no fun being set up for failure.
Poor Execution: Setting The Bar Too Low
A CEO discovered that goal setting was so poorly used executed, the word goal lost it’s meaning. The bar was habitually set so low, there was no real achievement. His solution: use a different word.
It’s been said that: Fuzzy goals don’t lead to fuzzy results. They lead to no results at all.
No goal line, no touchdown dance. And yet the futile pursuit of fuzziness is pervasive.
Being Anti-Goal vs. Using Anti-Goals
Whether you believe in goal setting or not, Anti-Goals might have value for you.
Based on this Medium article by Tiny founder Andrew Wilkenson, your Anti-Goals are created by taking an inventory of the things that you least enjoy. Your biggest annoyances. The things you loathe.
“So, instead of thinking through what we wanted our perfect day to look like, we thought about the worst day imaginable and how to avoid it. We inverted and came up with what we call Anti-Goals.”
What would be in your Anti-Goal inventory? How might you plan for eliminating them from your day?
Two Steps Beyond Anti-Goals
The idea of Anti-Goals borrows one component from an approach I’ve used for evaluating workplace behaviors by listing START, STOP, CONTINUE items. I ask the boss: What would you like to see this person…
- Start Doing (something that isn’t being done now)?
- Stop Doing (or do less of)?
- Continue Doing?
Or you can take an introspective approach. Consider your most important goals and ask these questions of yourself.
A Supplement, Not a Substitute
In the case of Andrew Wilkerson, visualizing the perfect day didn’t help him eliminate his annoyances. But the exercise of visualizing and documenting your ideal day has been very effective for me. It took several years for my ideal day to finally happen. But what a great day it was. And other ideal days followed. I became a believer. So have many of my coaching clients.
Visualization of your ideal day and your worst imaginable day can be valuable supplements for enhancing your awareness of things you want to pursue and avoid. .
But neither of these visualization tools are a substitute for prioritized, goal written goal plans.
Embracing Traditional Goal Setting
Don’t Throw the Baby out with the Bath Water!
There are no shortcuts on the road to success. Anti-Goals are a supplement. Not a substitute.
There is no better tool for both self-leadership and formal leadership, than setting AND developing a written plans for your most important goals.
As humans, we are inherently goal seekers. But most of us are less inclined to set goals.
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?
~ Robert Browning