Goals Without Numbers

I had the privilege of being invited to the MRINetwork® Convention. It has been more than 20 years since I attended such an event. There were some truly excellent speakers, however, one in particular caught my attention. The subject of goal setting is something I am passionate about.

Importance of Metrics

Elaine Farina delivered a presentation about goals billed as “Get Ready to Grow.” Much of her material focused on metrics and how they can be utilized to plan and assess goal progress. Undoubtedly certain types of goals lend themselves to measurement. We can track how many sales calls we make or how many pounds we lose. Simple. Record the activity or result and use it to identify trends, which can used as a method for adapting and learning. In many types of organizations recording useful metrics allows patterns to develop. Ultimately, the patters will allow us to ascertain how many calls to secure an appointment or how many defects can be permitted in widget production.

Subjective Goals

Elaine’s session caused me to really think about the subjective goals most of us have. These are things that do not lend themselves to metrics. In many ways these goals are more meaningful to us than numbers driven goals. For example, I want to be more spiritual or I want to be a better parent are common goals. However, they can’t be measured except through one’s subjective feeling about progress (or lack thereof).

I was reading an article that explained managers shifting their approach to “coach-like” feedback. The research indicates the way to help others (notably Millennials) to engage is to take an interest in their “complete life.” If this is going to occur, I believe two things are necessary beyond the traditional objective review of their metrics.

Balancing Objective and Subjective Goals

First, management needs to give their teams an opportunity to disclose and discuss all their goals. If the underlying tenet is to assist in complete development, knowing what they are trying to accomplish is essential. This approach differs from the old school method of focusing on work at work and “do the rest of that stuff on your own time.”

Second, managers should encourage assessment of their performance in these “soft goals.” In fact, getting people comfortable with honest evaluation of their successes and struggles helps them to become better employees, teammates, and leaders.

Several years back, I came across the Stockdale Paradox:

You must maintain unwavering faith that you will prevail regardless of difficulties and at the same time have to face the brutal facts of the current state of reality.

An engaged culture embraces the real meaning of this paradox by inspiring pursuit of different types of goals, not just those constricted to charitable metrics. Individuals should be encouraged to realistically look at their current circumstances. This should be done in a supportive environment– inspiring them to believe in their capacity for achievement. And recognizing that sometimes achievement is nothing more than a positive internal feeling.

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