Big Dilemna for Leaders – Goals or Problems?
Often when listening to managers and executives talk about their people and what they see as a lack of commitment, the issue really started with the leaders. Okay, confused? So are several leaders when it comes to discussions about the outcomes they want and how to engage their people.
It seems most leaders are active goal seekers, spending their time thinking about what objectives to set to ensure the outcomes. Then they share the information in the form of goals with everyone on their team or staff. Yet, they don’t seem to be aware than in most cases only half of their people understand this goal stuff. Really, only half the people get it.
So what is going on in the minds of your staff regarding understanding goals?
It is all about the mental side of the people. No I’m not talking about how smart they are – I’m talking about how their brains function relative to certain triggers.
In the world of neuroscience, we have learned people use particular parts of their brains which thinking – from the new brains logical focus, to the mid brains emotional encounters or to the reptilian brains need to fight or flight. And the list of new research goes on to getter depth regarding the inner workings of a person’s brain.
Here is the interesting part, the neuroscience I’m talking about comes from some of the earliest research on the operation of the human brain and how it works. A couple of scientist from California came up with information about how the human brain works in everyday people. And while they uncovered a comprehensive set of factors – one set of factors they found fit this issue of why some people have a negative reaction to discussions about goals or objectives.
Here are the facts about the human brain. People are either “towards something” or “away from something” driven.
Personally, I learned first hand while coaching an executive in Ohio. Every time I brought up the subject of goals – what were his goals and how was he doing relative to the goals he set – he would change the subject. Thus, this became an interesting scene as I would continue to ask about his goals. ( Of course I would ask about goals since I like to set goals and regularly talk about achieving my goals – I get motivated by goals.) Yes, I was focusing on what was of supreme interest to me – not him.
Then I learned about the concepts of away from and towards – which changed our coaching relationship. I began to think about what got this guy motivated and energized? He was an expert problem solver and any problem coming his way was dealt with immediately with excellent success.
Yes, he was an away from person. After this realization he and I talked about it and I learned he absolutely loved solving problems. In fact, I realized this was a pattern of behavior I had been seeing all along our coaching tenure.
Therefore, we changed the wording of the “goals” he was supposed to be achieving and turned them into problems to be solved. The transformation was immediate. He began to hit his targets quickly and will great success. So what happened? We met his needs for problem solving rather than forcing him to think about moving towards a goal or objective. He shared with me that he didn’t believe in goals and felt it was a waste of time to set goals or objectives.
In summary, you need to think about the people who report to you. Do they talk about moving towards things like goals, objectives or achievements? Or do they talk about moving away from problems, issues or limitations?
The away from people need their goals and objectives rewritten in a problem to be solved format. Once you do this get out of their way because they will solve the problem as fast as your towards focused people will achieve their goals and objectives.
Remember, take some time to think about each of your direct reports and reflect upon how they talk about things. Ask the mental question – are they moving towards something or are they moving away from a problem. Then set your goals in the format best suited for each individual. Do this and you will see greater outcomes and results than you expected.