Much has been written about goal-setting. From the iconic SMART goals to the GROW model, there are a variety of frameworks for helping to get from here to there. However, maybe we need to take a step back. Whatever approach you take to setting priorities and achieving your goals, it’s pointless to think about priorities and goals in a vacuum.
Here are four questions that will help you confidently work through any challenge:
- Why is it important? This question helps you differentiate between important and urgent situations. Things can seem important based on how they are delivered, which can trigger panic and desperate behaviour. It also focuses your efforts on where they will produce the best results.
- What do I need to know? Identifying what you need to know is the first step to creating a plan of action. It helps you determine what you already know that can lead to a solution and what you need to source. It also demonstrates to stakeholders that ‘something is being done’ about the situation. Tasking people to gather information and data is a solid next step.
- What experiences can I learn from? Similar circumstances have most likely occurred in your organization in the past. This question often leads to hypotheses to test or options to consider. Similar experiences help identify risks associated with different courses of action, adding a cost benefit assessment to your plan.
- What works and doesn’t work? In any organization, culture and current business realities influence what leaders and their teams will support or reject. For example, a very hierarchical organization will most likely reject a course of action that requires employee empowerment and decision making. Looking at options through these filters help identify the best course of action based on your culture.
Additionally, here at The Roundtable we love the “Four Filters” approach, developed by our partner MRG. This model identifies four key contextual considerations to inform the conversation about how leaders can build an authentic and relevant approach to leadership while contributing to an aligned and effective leadership culture for their organization.
Let’s take a look at each filter.
In this first filter, success depends on the ability to align organizational leaders in the approach to leadership that will support the achievement of the desired goals and outcomes. For example, if the organization has the goal of becoming more innovative, it will be important for leaders in the organization to lead in ways that facilitate innovation. The Organizational Filter helps individual leaders to understand where they are relative to the desired organizational leadership culture.
The Role Filter seeks to explore leadership effectiveness through the needs of both the level and function of the leader. For example, if we compare the role of a first-level leader in finance to the role of a senior leader in business development in the same organization, we would not expect that each would need to exhibit all of the same leadership behaviors to achieve successful outcomes in their respective roles. There will be some overlap driven by that organizational filter, however both the functional areas they manage and the levels at which they operate will drive the need to lead differently to realize their respective goals.
The Situation Filter recognizes that, although two leaders can be in the same or similar roles, their situations within the context of those roles can vary considerably. This variation requires different approaches to leadership in order to achieve their goals. For instance, consider two line leaders: the first manages an area that has been very stable, while the other manages an area that is going through a tremendous amount of change. While the roles are the similar, their situations may require each manager to leverage different leadership behaviours to realize their goals.
The Individual Filter reflects the importance of leaders exploring and demonstrating a version of their best selves in the leadership role. It accepts the importance of aligning one’s approach to leadership to one’s values, beliefs and principles. The Individual Filter creates the opportunity for leaders to experience themselves as genuine and authentic in the leadership role.
When it comes to setting goals, you have to filter it through what the organization needs, your team requires, your role requires and what you’re motivated by – these four filters. If people are resetting, a great first step is to analyze what’s changed in any of those filters and what needs to shift accordingly in their own goals as a result.