The pablum of executive coaching literature consistently points to setting goals. The goals of the coach and executive must be measurable, specific, and quantitative. Cherry picking something Peter Drucker Never Said! of “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
It is interesting to read Drucker’s thoughts on this,
“Your first role . . . is the personal one. It is the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence, the identification of people, the creation of a community. This is something only you can do. It cannot be measured or easily defined. But it is not only a key function. It is one only you can perform.”
Unfortunately, many managers feel guilty, embarrassed, or frustrated when they cannot place strong quantitative outcomes on their goals. However, leaders that seem to understand the complexity of their work recognize that very precise targets are only useful in specific circumstances.
One executive, I consulted with shared, “The decisions where we can assign numbers are the simple ones. Establishing the integration of all the departments to operate effectively, deciding how to present ourselves to politicians and state legislators, determining the needs and location of our customers in 3 to 5 years, developing goals for managers to maintain the innovation and drive of employees … those are the tough ones, and they cannot have numerical answers.”
In an earlier post ‘4 Reasons Not to Announce Your Goals‘ I shared some ideas. Below are two reasons to keep your goals general and avoid the measurement trap.
Identifying the boundaries of the work constructs cohesion and identify
- Cohesion. Conflict over the details will exist in any organizational goal. At the strategic level, sufficient generality can promote cohesion by placing distinct differences aside and emphasizing shared values. Most can support growth, freedom, equal opportunity, transparency, or improved quality as organizational goals. Paradoxically adding specific dimensions to these broad concepts may complicate communication and create contention. Once the general goal is accepted people can work to interpret the goal in their departments, teams, and work. This framing of the goal within broad boundaries may keep the focus on how to achieve the target vs. interpersonal fighting about how to interpret the specifications.
- Identity and life. Broad goals create identity and life within an organization. All effective organizational, as well as executive coaching goals, satisfy a basic human need. They connect people to construct a purpose or role that is larger than themselves, to be a part of a greater challenge, to impact a community, and to seek rewards they could not achieve alone. Many people can connect with purpose and community impact more than they can connect with numerical goals.
While the organizational, and executive coaching, goals must be broad enough to increase cohesion and identity enhancing widespread support, they must also differentiate what makes “us” (the identity) separate from “them” (the others). More capable executives consider what goals, processes, and procedures better attract skilled people and personal commitment, I often use the question – Will this decision attract trust or repel trust? The talent and dedication of the people are the central attractors of trust and sustainability of the organization.