Who needs Goals?

Leaders ensure that trust, communication, expectations, job descriptions and goals are in place, and working within the organization. These ingredients are all tied together; one continuous process, not single events. Leaders do not dictate these ingredients, they model them by trusting, communicating openly, developing effective expectations, and asking for job descriptions.

Why set goals? Most employees prefer the satisfaction of achieving something. Working without a “target” would be like watching sports without expecting either team to score. Goals are essential for growth for without them our organizations will stagnate. When we deal in generalities, we rarely succeed, but when we deal in specifics, we rarely fail. High performance people think future tense is now; it already exists.

In my experience the following existed in most organizations, which were not helpful for success:

-No goals were set, at any level

-Too many goals were set (the mind cannot handle, effectively, more than 9 goals)

-Goals were set with little or no input from the individual(s) who had to attain them

-Goals were set from the bottom of the organization up

-Goals were set that could not be determined whether or not they were accomplished. In other words they were written in generalities (e.g., “work on completing the xyz project”)

Wayne Dyer in his book, Your Sacred Self, cautions against setting goals because he sees them as being etched in stone. Not true. Goals must remain flexible so that they are adaptable to changes in our environment. This thought makes the goal setting process dynamic not static. Goals should not be viewed as a ball and chain. Think of them as guides and checkpoints.

Here are some ideas to consider about goal writing before you start putting pen to paper:

1 Visualize the big picture of what you want it to look like.
2 Write consistent goals with similar language, common or related results, and goals that cooperate with each other (not in conflict).
3 Use constructive images; look at the result in positive terms.
4 Use clear images; quantity, objective, how big, how little. Clarify what you want.
5 See accomplishment and result, now! You get what you can see.
6 Build in accountability for goal achievement. Someone has to be accountable for results.
7 Visualize as if it’s already happened, successfully.

Now you are ready to begin the goal writing process. It’s important to brainstorm a list of potential goal areas, and then eliminate all but the most important areas. The final list should not contain more than five to nine goals. Why? That’s the most we can manage at any time. In order for goal setting to be done in a meaningful way they should be specific (what, how, when), measurable (%, #, time), attainable (within reach), relevant (to company, department, job), and trackable (progress can be measured).

Remember, goals are not meant to defeat us but meant to encourage us. Start simply and build on your successes. See the goal; picture it in your mind and then use the process to make it real. “As is your sort of mind, so is your sort of search; you’ll find what you desire” (Robert Browning)

Job Expectations

Have you had an experience where you expected, or assumed that someone would behave in a certain way, and they didn’t? Frustrating, right? Quite often we make assumptions about the way people will behave without expressing these expectations verbally. These expectations of ours come from life/job experiences. When these expectations are not met our reactions can be “extraordinary”, to the point of negatively affecting the relationship. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, these potentially destructive situations must be avoided. That’s why I consider the discussion of Expectations to be nearly as important as that of Trust and Communication.

Organizations also have expectations about how work is to be performed, and how members are to relate to one another. These expectations are part of the culture or personality of the organization, but
you won’t find them in job descriptions, goals or action plans. You usually can’t even find them in any orientation or training program, but they are there. They just aren’t openly discussed. It’s all part of that unknown and ambiguous world called “Assume”. How many times during the day do we assume that someone else knows what we know?

What are the results of not communicating expectations? Beyond permanently affecting a relationship there are other consequences, including lack of commitment to the job, less productivity, and lower product and service quality. Why does this happen? I’ll answer that question by telling you what other writers have said about the importance of communicating expectations. In the book, “Creating the High-Performance Team,” written by Bucholz and Roth, communicating expectations, related to tasks and relationships, are the first thing a manager should do when a team first comes together. It creates stability in the group, and can prevent disruptions related to tasks and personal conflict. Charles Coonradt, in the book “The Game of Work,” states, “One problem in business today is people are not being told what is expected of them. There is a productivity crisis. In the workplace, when expectations are clearly defined and uncertainty is minimized, it is easier for people to have the satisfaction of meeting expectations.” Stephen Covey writes, in “Principled-Centered Leadership,” “Life can be thrown out of kilter with uncertain expectations, shifting limits, or arbitrary rules.”

In my organizations here are examples of expectations I have had for those I work with:

1 “No” is not an answer

2 Everyone is to be treated equally and fairly

3 Teamwork will be obvious

4 Know what the customer wants

5 Act professionally (attitude and thought)

6 Do what you would expect if you were the customer

To establish expectations for your organization or group begin by asking yourself what assumptions do you have about how people are to perform tasks and work together. Are they reasonable expectations and are you willing, and able to model the behavior? If not, you cannot demand them of others. The leader that understands the importance of communicating expectations and modeling those expectations has the potential of gaining employee commitment, increased productivity, and improved quality and customer service.


This topic is second only to trust in importance for leaders. Why? Communication increases knowledge, builds confidence, trust, commitment, and increases productivity. It creates meaning. It’s the only way groups can become aligned behind vision, mission and goals. Yet it typically shows up on surveys as “Needs Improvement.”

We don’t communicate well with each other (which is no surprise), and there are many reasons why. Our ability to communicate is affected by our styles, tone, body language, filters, barriers, and our inability to listen. Filters and barriers include ego, perceptions, assumptions, language, status, education, history, stereotypes, and jargon. The result is that communication can stop, or be severely limited.

Dr. Jack Gibb in his book, “Trust, a New View of Personal and Organizational Development,” lists six behaviors that stop communication. They are judging, superiority, certainty, controlling, manipulation, and indifference. It’s not that we deliberately behave this way. It’s often done without thinking. What do they sound like?

-Judging: “You are wrong”

-Superiority: “I’m better, I know more”

-Certainty: “My mind is made up”

-Controlling: “Let me tell you how to do it”

-Manipulation: “If I don’t tell them the whole story I can get them to agree with me” (hidden motives)

-Indifference: “I have better things to do”

In this environment the group loses energy, becomes reluctant to offer ideas, becomes distrustful, won’t ask questions, will learn not to disagree, and will learn not to volunteer.

What can leaders do to encourage communication? Dr. Gibb lists six communication encouraging behaviors; description, equality, openness, problem-orientation, positive intent, and empathy. These are opposites of communication stopping behaviors. What do they sound like?

-Description: “I see it this way, how do you see it?”

-Equality: “We are in this together”

-Openness: “Let’s hear your ideas”

-Problem orientation: “You know the problem, and you know how to fix it”

-Positive intent: “What are we trying to accomplish?”

-Empathy: “I appreciate your concern and sense your frustration”

The result of these encouraging behaviors is a willingness to share ideas, ownership of difficulties and mistakes, positive attitude, willingness to fulfill requests, and problem-solving.

Researchers have correlated satisfaction (satisfaction with self, job, peers, management, and organizations), and communication, with job performance. During my time in HR I observed the tremendous benefits of open communication in my businesses and as a manager.

Trust the Most Valuable Resource

I’m painfully aware of the importance of trust, through personal experiences, and through observation of others struggling with the issue. I believe trust is basic for any productive, and meaningful relationship. Stephen Covey in his book Principle-Centered Leadership writes, “Trust-or lack of it-is at the root of success or failure in relationships and in the bottom-line results of business, industry, education, and government.”

Trust has been written about in great detail, and yet it’s not easy to define. It’s a sense about someone that affects how we act, what we say, and how we say it. Trust is a mix of character, competence, integrity, and values. Trust is elusive. It can take years to build, yet can be gone in an instant by a comment, or an action.

Trust issues begin with a few isolated incidents that can then affect everyone in the work group. For example, a few years ago I tried to work out an agreement on a project with another individual. Our discussions normally left issues unresolved. I “assumed” we would eventually get closure on these issues. My assumption was wrong, and trust was destroyed. Why? The individual said one thing but did another. Trust was destroyed.

During my stay in Indianapolis a new manager (who turned out to be my favorite) was assigned to head up the HR department. Initially he did not like me or trust me, but due to my words matching my actions within a short period of time his behavior changed toward me, and trust was established.

Examples of behaviors associated with destroying trust:

1 Assuming someone is going to respond in a negative way and interacting consciously or unconsciously with that person in a way that sows mistrust.

2 Making excuses; not accepting responsibilities.

3 Withholding information.

4 Not keeping confidences.

5 Talking about someone behind their back.

6 Saying one thing, and doing another.

7 Speaking in half-truths; not addressing an issue head-on.

8 Breaking commitments.