Goals, whether formally stated or not, are critical to all organizational success. We (hopefully) all have over-arching organizational goals; but on a more practical and immediately applicable level, we have project goals, productivity goals, quality goals, developmental goals, and the list could go on.
Setting effective goals is the focus of countless resources (drop by your favorite bookstore, run a search on Amazon.com, look on your personal bookshelf if you`re unsure about that). One way to improve your leadership skills will be to improve your ability to help team members set effective goals. And if your team doesn`t have goals established right now … setting effective, meaningful goals needs to be your first task. Then, you need to help keep your team focused on those goals once they exist. Here are five practical tips for keeping people focused on their goals:
Remove distractions. People are busy (like you haven`t noticed). They have lots to do and many things on their mind. The first, and perhaps obvious thing, you can do as a leader is remove distractions. How? You do that by continuing to communicate about, ask about, talk about and align your communication with their goals. It is easier to stay focused when there are fewer competing messages. As a leader you can focus on your communication and conversation as one important way to reduce distractions.
Review regularly. How often do you review your goals? How often do you encourage others to review theirs? Unless your answer is daily, you have room for improvement here! As a leader you can do any number of things to review regularly. You can review goals with your team as a part of regular meetings. You can place key goals in emails. You can ask people to provide updates on their goals, and more. Think about your specific situation and you will come up with a variety of ways to make reviewing possible (and not monotonous). The real challenge, then, is to actually do it!
Support through action. It is hard to maintain focus on a goal if you don`t see how the goal can actually be achieved or how you`ll find time to actually work on it. You can help people focus on their goals by providing tangible support to them – including time, space and resources. Help people carve out time from the schedule to work on their goals. Find people, information or tools that might help them achieve their goals more rapidly. These tangible actions will help people focus on and achieve their goals.
See the success. People lose focus when they don`t feel like they can make it and when they lose sight of the goal. This step goes far beyond reminding people of the goal – rather, it`s about helping your team visualize the goal in real and vivid ways. It is also about helping them see themselves on the path to success. Help them do more than remember, help them actually see the success in their mind`s eye. When they have that picture, it will be much easier to maintain focus.
Show your belief. If you really believe in someone`s ability to reach his or her goal and demonstrate your belief – it will be much easier for them to focus. Given that, here are three important questions about belief: Do you really believe in that person`s ability to succeed? If not, why not? And if so, are you showing through your words (and actions, see above) that you do? Making sure that people know you care and believe in them will help them remove large subconscious barriers to their focus and achievement. (And if you don`t believe in them, there are bigger questions to be asked, but that`s for another article!)
As a leader you (hopefully) want people to reach their goals. And in order for any of us to reach goals, we must be able to maintain our focus on those goals. You do have the ability to help people find and maintain that focus!
By John Benson