Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Have You Tied Your Organization’s Goals To Your Noble Cause?

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.

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  1. On January 18th, 2012 at 5:27 AM adrian said:

    Hey Tanveer, you have got my internal thoughts regarding my way of accomplishing efforts to achieve the goals. Goals should always be realistic(for that everybody agrees) but the scalability of the Goal is rarely figured by the folks and that's the reason, some folks achieve their goals while some not! Thanks for making the view point more clearer about thinking for noble cause of the Goals.

  2. On January 18th, 2012 at 12:41 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    You're welcome, Adrian. You're absolutely correct that goals need to be realistic; while it's nice to want to 'aim for the stars', you still have to be sure you have a vehicle that will help you get there.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  3. On January 18th, 2012 at 8:45 AM Jon Mertz said:

    Tanveer, Understanding the "why" and communicating it will make doing the "how" much more meaningful and real. Too often, as you point out, we miss this, and then we wonder why our work seems meaningless or monotonous. It is essential to define and communicate the purpose. Excellent point to take to heart and action. Thanks! Jon

  4. On January 18th, 2012 at 12:47 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    You're welcome, Jon. It is so easy for us to fall into work or behavioral habits which ultimately leads to a mass of paper-pushers instead of fully-committed, empowered employees who see a genuine purpose and value in what they do.

    Too often we tend to focus on those bells-and-whistles perks like a chef-run cafeteria, on-site gym and/or daycare facility, game rooms and so forth and think that's what sets the successful organizations from the old guard ones.

    The reality, though, is that these thriving organizations understand that these perks are simply the by-product from creating an environment and culture where people feel like what they do matters.

    Tying your goals to your noble cause not only helps to foster that understanding, but it also makes it easier to ensure that the people you bring on board will help build on that culture, instead of becoming an impediment to its evolution.

    Thanks Jon for your comment; appreciate it!

  5. On January 18th, 2012 at 10:28 AM Mike Brown @mikeyb95 said:


    Nice post. An organization will not be able to succeed without a log-term purpose. You may be able to drive an organization to hit short-term goals – but that is not sustainable if there is not a purpose. Trees to do not grow to the sky and every business will peak. If you define yourself by your growth – there will be a lot of disappointed employees.

    Everyone should be able to simply answer the question – "Why do we exist?" When grounded with a sense of purpose – people will be able to weather the storm.


  6. On January 18th, 2012 at 12:50 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Exactly, Mike. So many studies have been done on organizational behaviour and motivation and they all demonstrate that what we're most driven by is not growth for growth's sake. Rather, what we seek is master abilities, talents and outcomes which help to fuel a sense of purpose and meaning in our collective contributions.

    Thanks for your comment, Mike.

  7. On January 18th, 2012 at 8:35 PM conference mercha said:

    Very insightful article, Tanveer. I feel that I have not been looking at the bigger picture for my company and your article has awaken me from my slumber. I feel that my driving force was a selfish one which would have a short term effect.

  8. On January 19th, 2012 at 12:10 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    I'm glad to hear it and I'm sure your employees will appreciate your shift as well.

  9. On January 21st, 2012 at 12:51 AM cbatac1823 said:

    This is a great eye-opener, Tanveer. You caught me thinking really deep for that. I think goals matter if and only you know the reason behind it, and not just how to achieve it. It gives a deeper meaning and a more complex understanding of it.

  10. On January 23rd, 2012 at 7:48 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks; glad to hear you enjoyed this piece and that it got you thinking about the whole approach you take in making goals for yourself and your team.

  11. On January 28th, 2012 at 8:14 AM Jim Matorin said:

    Tanveer: Another thoughtful post. I apologize for sounding cynical to a degree, but I want to share two thoughts: 1.) I think that one of the major reasons some of the iconic brands are struggling is their inability to adapt. 2.) I project that there will be a huge shift in the future defining success and a sense of purpose to a leader's team. The generation growing up are C'est Moi, really do not worry about the team, but rather their individual growth, thus will want to learn multiple areas of expertise and then move on. They are not going to follow the path their parents experienced that got short changed in the process. A future leader will need to redefine sense of purpose to this group.

  12. On January 28th, 2012 at 4:13 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Jim,

    First off, no apologies necessary for introducing any cynicism into the conversation. Unfortunately, the ability to accept discord when it's respectful and meant to share divergent perspectives is not valued as much as it should be. A lost art we need to bring back to the table if we are to see real progress/understanding achieved.

    I agree with you that one key reason for why some organizations are now struggling to find continued relevance in today's market is a lack of adaptability and even understanding of what exactly they need to change and what they should continue/develop to remain on the fore front.

    As for your second point, many studies support your perception that this new generation of workers (Gen Y) are motivated not by working to build an organization but to how working within a team serves to fulfill some inner purpose. Of course, this isn't so much a reflection on this generation as it is the consequence of the decades-long changes in the the North American workplace which has lead to a shift in how we foster loyalty. Namely, from a paternalistic, "I'll take care of you if you serve the organization" to a mutual examination of how the collaboration between employee and organization will serve the best interests of both.

    Being able to align your organization's noble purpose with those in your workforce is doable; that is, if leaders take the time to learn and understand what matters to those they lead beyond simply a means for paying the bills.

    Thanks again, Jim, for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  13. On February 5th, 2012 at 2:08 PM @vikramadhiman said:

    Wow Tanveer.

    Just stumbled on your blog via a RT on Twitter. What a fabulous resource you have and this blog post in particular is very good. I am going to ask my team at WizIQ Online Courses Marketplace to write and then narrate their interpretation of success tomorrow to the rest of the team. I had been long looking for something similar and your blog has been fantastic.

  14. On February 6th, 2012 at 11:21 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Vikrama; I appreciate the kind words and I'm glad to hear this piece has inspired you to work with your team to develop a clearer idea of how they view success in terms of your collective efforts.

    Thanks again for the kind words.

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