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Written Goals Ensure Intentionality

Delivering results is exactly half of a leader’s job. The other half is creating a safe, inspiring work culture where everyone in the organization is treated with trust, respect, and dignity. This doesn’t happen by default – it only happens by design. While looking at research that supports this fact, I was shocked and appalled […]

Delivering results is exactly half of a leader’s job. The other half is creating a safe, inspiring work culture where everyone in the organization is treated with trust, respect, and dignity. This doesn’t happen by default – it only happens by design.

While looking at research that supports this fact, I was shocked and appalled to find that the oft-quoted 1953 Yale Study of Goals was an urban legend; it never happened.  Supposedly the study was conducted to prove that people who write down their specific goals for the future are far more likely to be successful when compared with those who only had unwritten goals or those with no formal goals at all. It seemed to validate a systematic, formal approach to goal setting and goal accomplishment.

A few years ago, Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University was intrigued enough by the concepts in this rumored study that she engaged in conducting the research herself.

Dr. Matthews engaged 267 participants from around the globe in her study. Participants included a wide range of businesses, organizations, networks, ages, and backgrounds. Randomly assigned groups were given different activities for their workplace goals.

The group that performed best – 33 percent more successful in accomplishing their stated goals – did five things as part of the study.

  1. They formalized their goals in writing.
  2. They then assessed their goals on the degree of difficulty, importance, skills, and resources available to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and their accountability for delivering on those goals.
  3. They drafted action commitments for each goal.
  4. They shared their goals and action commitments with a friend.
  5. They sent that friend a weekly progress report throughout the four-week study.

Dr. Matthews’ study proved that formalizing goals, creating a thorough plan for delivering on those goals, then engaging in accountability practices vastly increases goal accomplishment. The Yale study lives!

Goal accomplishment and delivering promised results (and profits, if you’re a for-profit organization) are certainly important in our businesses. Leaders are charged with inspiring team members to deliver results.

Just as Dr. Matthews’ study proved how to increase workplace goal accomplishment with a formal goal accountability system, my research proves how to increase workplace inspiration and respect with a formal values accountability system.

Leaders must make respect – how people treat each other daily – as important as results. And they can’t just “tell” people to behave nicely. Without an integrated system, values don’t stand a chance up against dozens of metrics on performance dashboards throughout your business, watched by everyone weekly (or more frequently).

Also, just as with Dr. Matthews’ research, values accountability begins with leaders crafting a written statement of what values the company stands for and what actionable behaviors are required for people to model those values. Once values are defined in behavioral terms, leaders must model those behaviors in every interaction and invite everyone else in the organization to do the same.

My proven approach for this powerful combination of performance and values accountability is an Organizational Constitution. When leaders formalize their team’s present-day purpose, values and behaviors, strategies and goals, then live them, coach them, and align all practices to them, amazing things happen. Engagement goes up by 40 percent. Customer service goes up by 40 percent.

And – just as you’d expect – results and profits go up by 35 percent. These gains consistently occur within 18 months of engaging in my culture refinement process.

By all means, focus on performance. And spend 50 percent of your time proactively creating values clarity and values alignment. Your team will thrive.

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