Stop Setting Goals...

If you read my last post, 8 Reasons to Set Goals, this title may seem confusing. Well, my friend Bobb Biehl has written a great book entitled, Stop Setting Goals… If You’d Rather Solve Problems. Bobb realized years ago that not everyone is a goal setter. And, there are some people who are not energized at all by the pursuit of goals established by others. As a leader, what do you do if:  A) That’s you? B) You have some of these people on your team?

First, you need to understand the three types of people: Goal Setters, Problem Solvers, Opportunity Seekers. Here’s my quick attempt to summarize what Bobb has taught me.
Goal Setters – Men and women who are energized by the pursuit of meaningful goals. When Goal Setters see a problem large or small, they ask, "What is the goal? Should this problem be broken down into several goals? What’s our plan to achieve the goal?" They like to monitor progress towards goal achievement.
Problem Solvers – These folks see the world differently. They are energized when they see a problem to be solved. They may ask questions about the origin of the problem. They will want to discover the root cause of the issue. They will probably enjoy thinking creatively about how to solve the problem. The fact that the resolution to the problem may enable goal accomplishment is irrelevant.
Opportunity Seekers – Bobb believes that the world contains a small percentage of these folks – maybe as few as 5%. Opportunity Seekers don’t really care about the goal or the problems that may be evident. They have a sixth sense that enables them to see opportunity where others do not. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, is an Opportunity Seeker extraordinaire. He’s not energized by goals, and he tells us that our job as senior leaders is not to solve problems – it’s to prevent them. However, he has a life-long track record of seeing opportunities that others did not… the chicken sandwich and food in shopping malls being just two examples.
So what do you and I do with this information? Here are three suggestions:
1. Talk with your team. Find out which of your members have these various tendencies. Understand that they are not mutually exclusive; yet knowing the bias of your team members will be helpful.
2. Frame your work accordingly. When pursuing a goal, identify the major problems that are standing in the way. Give your Problem Solvers the assignment to solve those problems!
3. If you have Opportunity Seekers on your team, listen to them. Probe for understanding. Let them help you and the team see what they see. Their instincts will not always be right, but they can help you make significant leaps forward.
Just to be clear, I’m still a HUGE fan of goals. Understanding the way each of your team members thinks about goals will help you achieve more of them and make it more fun along the way![GLS_Shield]


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