While I now coach a lot of executives - for multiple (literal) seasons, I was a high school soccer coach when my (now married) sons were in that season of their lives. Our team did pretty well, we won a lot of matches and a championship along the way, but one thing that always stuck with me was the goal. Not the goal of the team…the goal itself.
The goal was visible, large, and remarkably difficult to score on (except for the occasional penalty kick, which goes in about 70-75% of the time, statistically). As a team, we would talk through how to get through the many obstacles that we needed to tackle to get to the goal, but there it was - visible for all to see. Standing eight feet high and 24 feet wide makes it tough not to see. While it may not have been obvious to every player at every time what to do or how to get there, they certainly knew that all their efforts were to be put toward getting to that goal.
Here’s a few things I try to keep in mind in business from my days of "goal staring":
1) Make goals easily understood Using the SMART acronym (there’s multiple versions - I like Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-Sensitive), but feel free to shorten it to as little as “put the ball in that thing over there”. You can add all the rules and nuances at some point, as well as the ideas and strategies to get there. But start with - “where, exactly, are we trying to go?"
2) Make goals highly visible Regardless of a player’s mindset or knowledge of the game, I could always point to that goal and say “that’s where we’re going - keep trying to move toward that”. How can you put the goal in front of people all the time, so that there’s not any question, at least on that part of the equation?
3) Celebrate when you “score" Have you ever watched a soccer match at the professional level? Have you ever heard the now famous “GOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!”? How about the player running around the field? Whatever your culture is, how will you celebrate the very difficult task of accomplishing the goal?
4) Be ready to reset - and go at it again and again Until the time is up, we would put the ball back at the center of the “pitch” and go toward the next goal. As a coach (leader), you have to know what the next one might be after this one is accomplished, and be ready to put the ball immediately back in play. What’s the next goal for your team?
5) Learn - in wins or losses At the end of each match, the team knew it was time to talk - every game, regardless of the result. Each person had to say one thing to celebrate about our time together and was tasked with one thing they needed to differently. What do you have in place to learn from every match?
What is one thing you will do differently about goals at your company? When will you do it?
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