Teams benefit most when members are part of the process of setting standards and goals

It’s no secret that goal setting, establishing standards and accountability are integral to improving and maintaining success. What might not be as obvious is the importance of how goals and standards are developed and how uniformly accountability is administered. 

The purpose to setting standards and goals is to challenge and encourage improved performance. Helping others find the way to “better” is one of the most satisfying things great leaders do. This process works best when the people are strong performers, engaged, and part of a healthy culture, i.e. one that treats others with respect, is fair and is consistent. The goal-setting process needs to not only be consonant with this culture but reinforce it. 

There is not just one way to set standards and goals. However, effectiveness increases dramatically when the participant(s) are part of the process and have ownership. Taking time to explain why it is achievable and needed, as well as the importance of embracing change, melds the team. Being open to questions and another perspective matters. Listening. Listening some more shows consideration and respect. Being willing to adjust the goal if appropriate shows humility. Working together to define a path pays dividends. 

Just lobbing a goal over the net and telling them to go get it reduces the odds for success. Encourage them to develop their own path.  Make clear that you are always there to support them. Set benchmarks. Review processes and results. Hold everyone involved accountable, including yourself.  “We are all in this together” must be the feeling that the goal-setting process creates. 

I have witnessed too many leaders who divorce themselves from the process once goals are set. They are no longer a participant to the detriment of all. It becomes someone else’s problem. Not a healthy way to run a business. Or the leader holds themselves to one standard and others to another. They get the credit and are happy to dish out the blame — no sharing allowed. Leaders who blame others, and never themselves, lose respect. Leaders who do not, in their own mind, make mistakes lose credibility. They are not seen as honest and genuine. Leaders who spend energy looking for a scapegoat demoralize the team. Leaders who attempt to achieve goals by threats and instilling fear lose their best people. This leaves the organization with only those employees who need to be told what to do and who respond only to a kick in the butt. 

These actions are often a result of the leader’s personal Noise, their insecurities, their belief that they must be seen as perfect, their inability to be honest with themselves, their need to be seen as better than anyone else and so on. Having your self-worth tied to any single success or failure is not a prescription for being a great leader, let alone having a great life.    

Great leaders, who have a handle on their personal Noise, hold all accountable. But if the goal is not met, they shoulder the weight of the result. If the goal is met, they are quick to credit the team and each participant. They fade into the background and let the team revel in their success. This builds team spirit and provides a firm foundation for achieving goals yet to come.

How standards and goals are set and evaluated plays a critical role in whether they are achieved. Great leaders have learned, and continue learning, how to maximize the potential of this process. 

Leaving personal Noise out of the process propels the leader and the organization down the path of even greater success.   

More to come.

Eric Easter is chief executive officer of HNN 125 retailer Kittle’s Furniture

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