You already know what a staunch supporter of goal setting I am. And research consistently demonstrates the pluses. There’s little doubt that executives and companies who set goals are more successful than those who don’t.
So, you may be surprised by the focus of this article.
Did you know history also reveals misaligned goals have been instrumental in the downfall of executives and corporations?
Consider, Wells Fargo’s fired CEO, John Strumpf, whose aggressive goal setting led employees to illegally open phantom accounts for its customers! This fraudulent activity by employees, tacitly encouraged by managers, was in response to unreasonable goals and in the hope of saving their job. Not a strategy that ultimately worked when Wells Fargo terminated 5,300 employees because of their deceptive actions.
Or let’s travel a bit further back in business lore to examine the infamous Enron. The goals that were central to the bankruptcy of Enron, and the dissolution of Arthur Andersen, were their incentives connected to revenue targets rather than ones based on profit. Everyone lost their job as well as their pension; some executives ended up in jail, and stockholders lost billions of dollars as a result of misaligned goals.
Are you are eroding the foundation of success for your corporation and your career future without recognizing it?
- Do you take into account human fragility? People avoid pain at all costs. If there are any loop-holes in your system, your employees will find them to realize the goal. Simply put, employees when under pressure will cheat to hit their goals!
- Have you set too many goals? The magic number seems to be seven. When you give employees too many goals, your unspoken agreement is that they have permission to pick and choose what they work on … and it may not be the leverage goals that will bring about corporate success. Limit the number of goals, so your employees have the time and the energy to produce quality results.
- Do your individual goals align with the end-result you intend to produce? Periodically, take your eyes off each singular goal, and focus on the big picture target to verify you’re still on track. Today’s corporate marketplace is so volatile that what may have been appropriate at one point in a company’s journey is no longer valid.
- Are employees able to side-step the intention behind your goals leading to unethical behavior? By establishing both quantity and quality goals, you’re setting a tension where quantity wins. Incredible as it may seem, research reveals quality flies out the window as employees focus on hitting quantity goals—very much as occurred at Enron.
- Have you created goals that are too narrow in focus? Make sure your goals are not so limiting in nature that your employees are blind to the myriad of other even more critical organizational issues they need to tackle.
It’s your responsibility to communicate clear, concise, ethical, achievable, targeted action steps leading to success for your employees as well as profitability for your company. Perhaps, it’s time to perform a goal check-in. Don’t assume the starring role in your own disaster movie where you shipwreck your career through poor and misaligned goals.