“As a leader, how do I set goals and enforce deadlines without people feeling imposed by expectations?”
This is a great question often posed in our Optimal Motivation workshops. I understand that you are between a rock and hard place—on one hand, you are responsible for getting results; on the other hand, the traditional tactics you use destroy the high energy, dedication, creativity, innovation, and initiative people need to achieve those results. The irony of pressing for results and pushing deadlines is that you promote the exact opposite of what you hoped to encourage. You need a new approach in 2014.
Reframe Goals into Something Meaningful
When I was an itinerant speaker for the world’s largest public seminar company, I conducted over 125 day-long workshops a year—each one in a different city, state, or country. I appreciated the work, but I was literally bone weary. The company imposed hard metrics that meant termination of your contract if not met: Collect 75% or more of participant evaluations (typically 200) and score a 4.5 or better on a 5-point scale.
Those goals exhausted me even more! If I had focused on meeting them, I would have burned out and quit—many of my colleagues did. Instead, I reframed the company’s goals into outcomes meaningful to me. I will remember at least 20 people’s names and something about them by the end of each day. If at least one person tells me I made a difference in their life, then it was a good day. (After all, that was why I was doing what I was doing.)
Reframing goals into results that were meaningful to me was energizing. I focused on the values of what I was doing and the by-product was consistently achieving the organization’s measures of success. Consider taking the time to help your employees reframe the organization’s goals.
When employees reframe organizational goals into results that are meaningful for them, everybody wins.
Turn Deadlines into Data
Deadlines exist. I am working on one right now as I write this blog. The trick is to view deadlines (or live-lines, as a colleague of mine chooses to call them) as critical information. Leaders can help people shift the way deadlines are interpreted. Instead of considering deadlines as points of pressure, position deadlines as communication tools that describe what is needed for people to do their jobs effectively. Instead of imposing deadlines that undermine people’s autonomy, position timelines as data points that provide valuable insight about how to allocate time, make thoughtful choices, and decide what to do next—or not at all.
Deadlines are a reality, but leaders can position deadlines as data to help employees live a more autonomous, optimally motivating, and high-quality life at work.
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