Why do the goals that you’ve set out for your team to accomplish matter?
At first, the answer to this question might seem obvious – the goals you’ve established are meant to ensure your organization’s continued profitability, to increase or sustain your market share, create a new demand for your products or services, and so forth.
And yet, if we examine this answer closer, it becomes clear that the measures above are merely the outcomes of your organization’s shared efforts and not the real driving force which motivates your employees to contribute their full talents and abilities. For that, employees require something deeper and more meaningful – a noble cause which they are internally driven to rally around and bring to fruition.
Our noble cause is that shared purpose that allows us to move past focusing only on the ‘how’ and seeking to answer the ‘why’, fostering a deeper sense of meaning in what we do and an understanding of how our efforts can impact others beyond our office walls.
It’s the reason why some companies have managed to thrive and expand their market base despite the uncertainties present in today’s global economy, because they’re not simply reacting to what’s going on around them. Instead, their efforts are based upon a reflection of how to respond to current conditions in a manner that holds them on course to their shared purpose.
And it’s thanks to this kind of focus that these organizations are successful, not just in terms of various industry or financial benchmarks, but in how their employees have taken ownership of the collective efforts and accomplishments being made by their organization.
So how can you make sure the goals you’ve set out for your organization are aligned with your noble cause? Here are three key guideposts to help you evaluate whether you’re staying on track or shifting off-course from your shared purpose.
1. Is your focus solely on how to achieve goals and not addressing why they matter?
While most of us understand that a key element to achieving a goal is being able to devise and implement a plan for how we can reach it, few of us spend time communicating to our team the message of how these goals serve to fulfill our shared purpose. This is no doubt why we’re seeing this growing myopia on short-term goals/forecasts as from this vantage point, the ‘how’ becomes easier to focus on than the ‘why’.
It’s thanks to this short-term focus that we’re seeing a rise in both workplace stress and employee disengagement because employees lack the context and deeper understanding of how their collective contributions tie into an organization’s long-term vision.
By including an understanding of how these goals will serve to guide your team towards achieving your shared purpose, you will not only be able to fully engage employees in the process, but you will also be providing them with the context of how to address the challenges they will inevitably face by changing their approach, and not their destination.
2. Do you set goals mostly in response to what your competition is doing?
When it comes to the ability to create unique offerings or services, few companies can match the success and reputation garnered by such companies as Amazon, Zappos, and Apple. Of course, the factors behind their success are not the result of their responding to challenges made in their niche by their competition. Rather, their success is a result of their setting goals that would help them to achieve what they envisioned for their organization, regardless of what their competition opted to do under the same market conditions.
Indeed, if we look at many of the iconic brands which are now struggling to stay alive, one common fault they all share is their inability or unwillingness to commit to and communicate clear goals of what they wanted to accomplish – irrespective of what their competition was trying to do – to ensure they continued to fulfill their shared purpose.
Their current fate serves as a warning for others of what happens when you create goals in response to what your competition is doing, instead of determining what you alone could offer to your customer base in light of the changing market conditions.
3. Have you defined for your team what success means for your organization?
In most cases, when we define success, we tend to rely on market-based metrics such as profits earned, market share and so forth. While these measures are important for your organization in terms of understanding your continued viability and future growth, it’s important to remember that for your employees, these are simply the outcomes from their shared contributions and not a measure by which they will feel any particular level of success or accomplishment.
To illustrate what I mean, let’s say we randomly select 10 employees from any organization that you view as being the model of success in today’s global market. What do you think they’d answer in response to the question of why they think their organization is successful? Will it be how much profit their company has made last year or last quarter? Or how much their company’s market share grew?
Unless they work in the C-suite or the finance department of their organization, it’s unlikely that they’ll be using these as their own measurements of success. In fact, I would surmise that while they might share one common theme for why they think their organization is successful, if you ask them why they personally feel successful as employees of that organization, you’d get a number of diverse answers for why they are proud of their collective accomplishments.
The reason for this is that in addition to communicating to their team what they wanted to accomplish, these leaders understood that they had to define success not simply in pragmatic terms, but in a manner that also makes it meaningful to those involved.
They painted a picture of success which was not only specific, but personal so that their employees could adopt it as their own. In so doing, they connected the organization’s success to their employees’ sense of purpose and drive to contribute meaningfully to their shared cause.
Thanks to the faster pace and growing interconnectedness found in today’s world, leaders can no longer simply focus on short-term targets or aiming to fulfill projected forecasts of their organization’s profitability and growth. Instead, to successfully navigate today’s global market requires leaders who are willing and able to foster a culture that inspires, empowers and sustains a sense of purpose in the collective efforts of those they lead.
When asked about the human potential, Albert Einstein said:
We have to do the best we can. This is our sacred human responsibility.”
In light of the evolving changes going on in the business world today, it’s becoming clear that the ability to connect your organization’s goals to your noble cause is critical not only for your organization to be successful, but for it to remain relevant to those they serve in the years to come.