One of your primary responsibilities as a leader is to achieve objectives, to get things done, to make progress towards established targets. Establishing targets is key. If you don’t set and articulate goals, you are leaving progress to hope and luck, which is not a wise leadership strategy. I am reminded of this folklore story from my childhood.
A man was traveling through the countryside and arrived at a fork in the road. There were no signposts, but he noticed an old man sitting at the side on a patch of grass.
“Excuse me, sir,” he said. “Where do each of these roads go?”
The old man looked up with rheumy eyes and asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” was the response.
The old man replied, “Well, it doesn’t make any difference then. Take any road.”
And in Alice in Wonderland
This story rings familiar with this piece from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
“Cheshire cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cheshire cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cheshire cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
No matter which story you pick, the message is clear. It is important to set and articulate goals to achieve outcomes. Which is why establishing targets and monitoring progress is an essential leadership responsibility. So make it a point to do exactly that. Set targets, numeric or qualitative, and then check in regularly to see what sort of headway you and your team are making against those milestones. Be prepared to revise objectives as needed to acknowledge changing circumstances.
But it isn’t good enough to just give your staff destinations, you also need to get their buy-in for the journey. There is no use in setting objectives if your staff members aren’t on board. So, seek agreement on goals by involving your people in establishing targets in the first place. This doesn’t mean you cannot push them to stretch, you can; but if you want commitment to the final outcomes, you have to get them to be part of the process.
I’d love to know about your goal-setting practices, for yourself, and for your staff. Are you doing this? If no, why not? And if yes, is it working for you? I obviously believe that establishing targets and monitoring progress is very important, but I’m open to hearing otherwise. Please share your insights by adding your comment below.
I often offer tips in the blog on how to achieve objectives. In fact, last year, I did an entire video series on Productivity Tools for Leaders.