It isn’t that these books make you think hard to understand them, but rather they…
(Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 101)
How about substituting “SMART goals” for management and “being intentional” for leadership in the above quote? Why?
Too often, a goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) but still not the right goal. If you’re setting goals for yourself, or if you’re coaching others, here are three key questions that aid in ensuring that goals intentionally target what is most important, not what your or your client might assume is most important.
- Is this the right goal right now? Leadership is situational. While there are core competencies all leaders need, different ones are more important in some situations than in others. Unfortunately, those new to leadership—or to a given role—may be unaware of priorities they’ve never needed to attend to in the past.
- Did you check blind spots? The problem with blind spots is that, well, we’re blind to them. Leaders who excel at networking, for example, often neglect setting aside time for reflection. Great planners may struggle to flex when flexibility is required by events. Those who trust their hunches may fail to gather the data that might convince others of the merit of their ideas. And so on. Further, the importance of the “other side” may not even be on their radar screens, lessening the odds that they’d set goals targeting improvement of these blind spots.
- Will reaching this goal have the hoped-for impact? This is partly about getting the “ladder against the right wall” but also about remembering that while we can improve how we influence others, we can only change ourselves. Take the problem of employee “resistance” to change. I see all kinds of leadership development goals targeting this problem—goals about tough conversations, motivating others, or collaboration. However, the number one reason that employees resist change is that leaders don’t meet their needs!
Slow down and make sure that ladder’s leaning against the right wall!