It all starts with a goal. Either you are handed a goal by your manager, or you are asked to set one for your team. Set properly, the goal will establish a GAP between where you are and where you would like the team to be. In fact if there is no GAP there is no need for a leader. And that’s what you are – so how SHOULD leaders set goals?
It turns out that conventional wisdom flies in the face of recent brain science research.
What does the research say?
Modern brain research indicates that we evaluate a ‘status quo goal’ as more difficult to achieve than a ‘modest increase goal’. Yup. Thats right. Respondents were MORE negative about how hard it would be to keep things the same versus a modest increase. (Harvard Business Review Nov 2018 – ‘Why You Should Stop Setting Easy Goals’)
But it gets even worse…
Not only did lower goals cause more negativity in respondents, when they were asked whether they would rather pursue the status quo goal – or the modest increase goal – they again chose the modest increase goal. And that finding held true across all different kinds of areas we set goals in.
So maybe we need to rethink HOW we set goals with our team. Lower goals are not actually more desirable or easier to get people to rally around. In fact, research has found that lower goals are less likely to be achieved. Now, before you fire off setting super stretch goals, know that those stretch goals rated the lowest of all three types of goals in terms of engagement and commitment. Maybe not verbal commitment – people may still commit verbally. They just don’t follow thru.
So what is the solution?
In order to maximize team commitment and engagement you need to set a modest increase goal while simultaneously decreasing the timeline allowed for the goals achievement. It is also critical that you make sure the team knows that this goal is a milestone on the way to a larger ideal – an ideal future that they have agree is important and desirable for the team to achieve.
So here is this week’s leadership insight: Set modest goals with shorter timelines.
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