Without a Goal, It’s Difficult to Score

I recently went ice skating in my home state of Georgia. Let me be clear: Georgia is not built for ice, and Mitch Aldridge is not built for ice skating. I usually get about 15 minutes in before my tree trunk legs are on fire and I need a break. I only feel once, but I felt it for a week. I am getting too old for ice skating. 

If you’ve ever been ice skating at an indoor rink, you’ll notice that there are designated spots for hockey goals. There are obviously a lot of differences between ice skating and ice hockey, but the main difference is this: goals. You don’t score goals in ice skating, because without a goal it’s impossible to score. Leadership is a lot like this. 

Sometimes we can get stuck in this sort of “ice skating” leadership where we just kind of cruise in circles and observe the other skaters. The problem is that when we’re doing this ice skating type of leadership, we’re not getting much done at all. What we really want is “ice hockey” leadership. This is the kind of leadership where we have a team working together toward a goal to score. 

It may sound obvious, but researchers have found that that effective goal setting leads to greater employee engagement, organizational optimism, and individual performance. When people have a shared vision that they can work toward together, they recognize that they’re a part of something, and tend to perform in a way that contributes to that “something.” 

One of the other pros of this type of leadership is that meeting goals allows employees to feel fulfilled and can help improve overall employee satisfaction. When employees are fulfilled and engaged, this obviously improves their retention rate. Effective goal setting can literally help you keep your people on board. 

So how do we make sure that we’re doing ice hockey leadership rather than just skating around? One tried and true method for more than 40 years now is the “SMART Goal” method. Originally created by George Doran in 1981, the SMART Goals method has become an effective and familiar goal setting tool. A quick refresher of the method in case you’re not familiar. 

Our goals should be: 

  1. Specific. Be specific about your goals, provide a clear picture, and hold people accountable. 
  2. Measurable. How will we know when we’ve “won”? Our goals should be measurable so that we can assess achievement. 
  3. Attainable. Research suggests that goal setting can be counterproductive if our goals are too unattainable. Instead, ask this question: with the tools that I have, can I reach this goal? If not, what tools do I need to be successful?
  4. Realistic. Answer the question: can I actually achieve this goal? If not, does the objective need to be altered or changed to ensure success? 
  5. Time bound. My favorite part by far. Start with your final objective and work backwards. How long do I need to achieve this goal? Make an outline and set a timeline for yourself. 

In our context, I would add one more piece to this method: 

  1. Togetherness. 

Imagine trying to score a hockey goal by yourself against a team of six. I would bet you couldn’t do it! When we’re setting goals with our team, let them know just that. You’re on their team! Not only can you help set goals with your people, you can lead them to their strengths and allow them to succeed. We’re always more effective when we work together. 
As you set goals with your team this year, make sure you’ve got a way to score. For more assistance with this, schedule a Pattern call today, or email brad@patterntalent.co.

January 17, 2024


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