An Optimally Motivating New Year: Two Ways to Set Engaging Goals and Deadlines

“As a leader, how do I set goals and enforce deadlines without people feeling imposed by expectations?”

bigstock----year-Isolated-D-image-50494235 (1)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.

About the author:

Susan Fowler is one of the principal authors—together with David Facer and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop.

6 thoughts on “An Optimally Motivating New Year: Two Ways to Set Engaging Goals and Deadlines

  1. Could you expand your second point more. I’m probably missing it, but I’d like to read how you unpack that 2nd point a little more. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for the request for more info, Paul. Types of statements and questions to ask yourself, or ways to position deadlines with others, might include:

    “Your completed report needs to be into finance by the 15th of each month. How does this timeline affect, interfere with, or integrate with your other priorities and plans?”

    “The client needs a hard copy of the proposal in hand by Friday. How does this information influence your schedule or activities this month?”

    “I have some data to share with you that I think you will find important, and hopefully helpful to managing your time and other priorities. The sales staff needs these leads sorted by Feb. they can complete their sales plans by end of the quarter. What questions or concerns do you have that will help with your contribution to this project’s success?”

    Notice that the word “deadline” is never used. You can use it, but if you try to frame the statement or question without using it, you are more apt to find a more creative way to present the information as information rather than a dictate.

    The purpose of framing deadlines into data is to make it easier for people to experience a positive sense of well-being rather than feel imposed, fearful, victimized, or controlled by deadlines. The suboptimal Imposed Motivational Outlook negatively affects their energy and attitude toward the activity.

    I would encourage leaders to learn to reframe deadlines for themselves–it provides great insight into how to help others reframe deadlines as data.

    Paul, please let me know if this clarifies or muddles my message! Here’s to an Optimally Motivated New Year!

  3. Pingback: New Year Resolutions, Thinking About The “Why” | The Wellness Inspirer

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