Goals have a property we can call immediacy. An immediate goal is directly connected to whatever you're doing right now. For instance, right now I'm typing this with the goal of finishing the article you're reading. By contrast, less immediate goals are less directly connected to what you're doing right now. For me, right now, a less immediate goal is to help project teams work more effectively. I'm typing this, in part, because I hope that people reading it might gain some insights that they can apply.
A goal's immediacy determines the effectiveness of any particular goal achievement strategy. To achieve a less immediate goal, focus on it. Contemplate it. Imagine it. Imagine achieving it. Imagine having achieved it. When you do, you wake up your passion, and you unconsciously do what's necessary to achieve that goal.[*]
Imagining success is far less effective for immediate goals. If I want an ice cream cone from the store across the street, imagining it probably won't make it happen. To achieve immediate goals, focus on what you have to do, and then you'll take action.
For a less immediate goal, focus on the goal, and the doing will take care of itself. For a more immediate goal, focus on the doing, and the goal will take care of itself. It's when we get the two confused that we get into trouble.
To help people and organizations achieve goals, use these same principles. As a manager or leader, you're responsible for your own personal goals, but you also take some responsibility for organizational goals and for goals of subordinates.
When the goal is immediate, do what you can to help people focus on what they need to do to achieve the goal. When the goal is less immediate, do what you can to help them visualize achieving it.
It's when we get
passion and action
confused that we get
into troubleFor instance, a near-term project milestone is an immediate goal. Although focusing the attention of the team on the milestone might be helpful, still more helpful would be a focus on this week's work, because that's what people must do to achieve the goal.
On the other hand, since goals related to, say, business development tend to be less immediate, a more vision-oriented approach is likely to be more effective for them. Focusing a team's energies on what life will be like when we complete this set of projects could provide people with the guidance they need to set their own priorities consistent with that less immediate goal.
For more on achieving and inspiring goals, see "Corrales Mentales," Point Lookout for July 4, 2001; "Commitment Makes It Easier," Point Lookout for October 16, 2002; "Beyond WIIFM," Point Lookout for August 13, 2003; "Your Wishing Wand," Point Lookout for October 8, 2003; "Give It Your All," Point Lookout for May 19, 2004; "Knowing Where You're Going," Point Lookout for April 20, 2005; "Workplace Myths: Motivating People," Point Lookout for July 19, 2006; and "Astonishing Successes," Point Lookout for January 31, 2007.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Commitment Makes It Easier
- When you face obstacles, sometimes the path around or through them is difficult. Committing yourself
to the path lets you focus all your energy on the path you've chosen.
- Obstacles to Compromise
- Compromise is the art of devising an approach acceptable to all parties. A talent for compromise is
rare. What makes finding compromises so difficult?
- When the job market eases for job seekers, we often see increases in job shifting, as people who've
been biding their time make the jump. Typically, they're the people we most want to keep. How can we
reduce this source of turnover?
- When Stress Strikes
- Most of what we know about person-to-person communication applies when levels of stress are low. But
when stress is high, as it is in emergencies, we're more likely to make mistakes. Knowing those mistakes
in advance can be helpful in avoiding them.
- Managing Hindsight Bias Risk
- Performance appraisal practices and project retrospectives both rely on evaluating performance after
outcomes are known. Unfortunately, a well-known bias — hindsight bias — can limit the effectiveness
of many organizational processes, including both performance appraisal and project retrospectives.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 23: Look Where You Aren't Looking
- Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events? Available here and by RSS on August 23.
- And on August 30: They Just Don't Understand
- When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others. Available here and by RSS on August 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenJHgWBIOLNaPIOztAner@ChacaaLbDYUUkQnsYXKroCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald
Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen
had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished.
As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business
analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read
more about this program. Here are some dates for this program:
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street,
Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13,
Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street,
Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20,
Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13, Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
- Many people experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes
frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all
speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises
is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage,
and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located
teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and
supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance.
Read more about this program. Here's a date for this
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin
Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19,
Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19, Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.