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Provide employees with practical processes to know what the wildly important goals are and how to achieve them, how to track success, and how to be accountable for results.
An anecdote from Jim Huling, FranklinCovey Senior Consultant for Execution:
"I'm not sure why my company hired you. I'm really good at setting goals and I really don't think I need any help."
My client was partially correct. He regularly set goals for himself and for his team. Unfortunately, he seldom achieved them – a characteristic that had led his company to suspect he was not the leader they needed. Hiring me was a final attempt to help him.
As we continued our first planning session, I asked Jeff to share the goals he had set for the coming year. He withdrew a binder from his briefcase and opened it on the table in front of us.
“This binder contains all of our goals as a team, broken down into four major categories,” Jeff said proudly.
Over the next few minutes, Jeff reviewed the four categories, each of which contained at least five goals. Together, he had set over twenty separate goals for his team, all of which were classified as “high priority.”
When he finished, Jeff leaned back in his chair and said, “Now, do you still think I need help?” With real compassion, I said yes. Yes, because I know there are three actions that Jeff needed to do to reach his goals.
First: Decide what’s important. The first difficulty Jeff faced is one that affects almost every leader – saying no to the relatively important in order to focus on the truly important – which is Discipline 1 in Franklin Covey’s 4 Disciplines of Execution.
Without question, this is easy to say but it’s hard to do. It’s hard to say no to a good idea, even in deference to a great one. It’s also hard to say no to an idea that’s politically correct to support, even if it’s not the right focus. Most of all, it’s hard to say no because limiting your goals increases your risk if you choose incorrectly.
But the more goals you set as “top priority,” the more you spread the focus of your team. Set enough goals and the focus on each one will be so small that it is almost meaningless. Limiting the number of top goals is the only way to ensure that enough time and talent will be applied to achieve exceptional results.
When I forced Jeff to identify the most important goals out of the twenty he had chosen it was like a root canal without anesthetic, but he eventually narrowed his list to two.
Image used in header by Kaliyoda.