Developing Your People Through Goal Setting

By Ken Chapman, Ph. D.
Ken Chapman & Associates, Inc.
As you have begun to discover throughout this process, the wellspring of personal motivation comes from within yourself.  In the very strictest sense, no one can truly motivate another person.  A leader can guide another individual toward self-motivation through creating working conditions which satisfy individual needs and wants while meeting organizational goals, but true motivation really comes from within the individual.  James Cribbin wrote in his book, Effective Leadership: “To get people to do mediocre work, one needs only ‘drive’ people.  To elicit top performance, one must get them to drive themselves . . .”
At one time in the not too distant past, many leaders assumed that if they measured how much their reports produced and used this information as the primary document for leading their reports, they had adequately fulfilled their responsibility.  Such information, however, measures the effects or results of the behavior of their reports. They do not account for the productive or non-productive behavior while it is occurring.  It is an after-the-fact measurement about which nothing can be done to affect work in progress.  Today the managerial role is being redefined as one of not only administrator but also as coach and developer of people.  In the words of Kenneth Blanchard, “I believe leadership is about helping people to win, it’s not criticizing, reprimanding, or looking for flaws.  It’s about building champions and there are two steps to doing this: 1) knowing how to evaluate and 2) knowing how to ‘coach.’  The ‘new’ leader must learn to deal with the causes of productive and non-productive behavior, and not just their results.  Putting band-aids on symptoms is a time consuming and endless task.  Dealing with causes as they are occurring is a preventive and developmental endeavor.” 
We now recognize that production figures are only one aspect of a leader’s responsibility.  These figures are directly affected by the attitudes of the people you lead and, therefore, one of your more important new functions is the continuous development of your people. 
Before you can systemically plan to influence your people or attempt to help them become motivated, you must first grasp the dynamics of attitude formation and understand how resistance to attitude change operates.
Every facet of one’s life has an associated attitude.  An attitude is a habitual pattern of thought.  What we see, hear, feel, do, and say is a direct reflection of these “habits” of thought.  Many of our habits serve a very necessary function in our lives.  If each time we approach a traffic light we had to contemplate the meaning of red, yellow, or green, the resulting chaos would be disastrous.  Similarly, in our everyday activities, if we analyzed in depth each person we met, each statement we heard, or each object we saw in order to give meaning to it, we would soon become immobilized.  Our basic attitudes are formed very early in life and become imbedded within our value system.  As such, they are closely associated with our feelings and emotions.  Our “self-concept” is intricately bound with our attitudes.  In fact, one of the best definitions of the term “self-concept” is:  the “attitudes we hold about ourselves.”  If behavior is directly linked to attitudes, then it is important that, if we wish to affect or improve behavior, we begin dealing with the basic attitudes.
The need for understanding how to, and recognizing the importance of, changing attitudes is critical to the development of self-concept.  All growth, improvement, and ultimate success are directly dependent upon developing positive and forward-oriented attitudes.  Without a positive, confident attitude about ourselves, there is little chance of developing the “solution-oriented” rather than the “problem-oriented” attitude about the goals toward which we are striving.
Fortunately, however, the research of the last few years has provided us with a great deal of knowledge and experience in understanding this phenomenon, as well as how to deal with it.  In an organizational setting, an individual’s behavior toward superiors, peers, and reports alike, as well as to the work itself, is a direct consequence of his or her basic attitudes.
It can be considered both rational and normal behavior to resist changing attitudes.  Attempts to change an attitude are sometimes received as a threat to the self-image.  People seem to have an inherent need to be “right”...  even if it’s to be right about being wrong with respect to our judgment of our own abilities, potential, and probability for success.
Principles of Attitude Change
In order to put into practice any plan for a person’s development, the following principles of attitude change must be fully understood.
1.  People will not change attitudes unless they are ready to change.  The suggestion of a need to change should come from within the individual.  An order from a leader to “change your attitude” is likely to be met with resistance.  You must anticipate this resistance and plan to deal with it when trying to establish conditions conducive to attitude change.  You cannot automatically assume that the change will be acceptable to the person.  One need only ask, “If change or altering conditions, relationships, and attitudes are thought to be desirable by all, why doesn’t the change occur spontaneously?”  The suggestion of change must be perceived by the person as desirable.  In order for an individual to change an attitude, he or she must first become aware of the need for change and it must offer a reward greater than the satisfaction which the present attitude gives.  This awareness should occur in a non-threatening or low risk situation.  If a suggestion for change is introduced in a manner which creates fear or embarrassment, resistance increases and often makes development difficult, if not impossible.  One of the most efficient and effective low risk situations for introducing attitude change is mutual goal setting between you and your reports.  Goal setting places the individual in a position where new attitudes are often required as a way of problem solving.  They cannot avoid becoming aware of areas of deficiencies and skills in which a need for improvement is required to reach goals.  They identify their strengths and weaknesses and their motivation for change results from a self-determined challenge to reach a goal. 
2.  If your people are to exert effort toward change, they must perceive you as a person who can help them develop in a direction suitable to their own unique and personal needs.  You cannot be viewed as a manipulator but rather as a facilitator.  You must recognize the needs of the individual, be aware of resistance, and then help the individual relate his or her other needs and goals to the goals of the organization.  You must establish a reputation of having integrity, being trustworthy and honest in order to gain the credibility and respect of your reports.  In setting mutual goals for the development of your reports, you must follow through on all promises which you make as well as give recognition for a report’s progressive goals achievement.  Be consistent and sincere with your recognition and appreciation.  “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated,” said philosopher William James.
3.  You must also become fully aware of the influence your superiors have upon your own behavior in order to understand the impact which your behavior has upon your reports.
     One of the most important influences upon people in their work setting is the behavior of the immediate leader.  This fact frequently becomes a source of discomfort to a leader since it implies that, in order to change the behavior of a report, a leader may well have to change.  Most individuals are concerned with things that satisfy or dissatisfy, please or displease their immediate superior, and their behavior is a clear demonstration of this concern.  While some element of this behavior is natural and desirable, excessive appeasement stifles the creative imagination of the individual and his or her potential value to the organization.  What might appear on the surface to be an attitudinal change on the  part of a report may well be a short-lived, superficial change designed to please the immediate superior.  Behavior responses like this may be expedient in the short run, but, for the longer haul, this reaction has non-productive results.
4.  In order to influence or develop attitudes in reports, you must create an environment conducive to growth.  By developing your own attitudes, you will lead by example.  Look beyond “problems.”  Eliminate the word from your vocabulary.  Instead, talk in terms of “situations” or “opportunities for solutions.”  Your goal is to get people to see beyond problems, to see the future not in terms of obstacles, but rather opportunities!
Report Development System
A.  Human Interaction Contract:
In order to understand a leader-report relationship, one must examine the “contract” upon which all human interaction is based.  These contracts are frequently implied rather than explicit.  The clearer you can make these contracts, the better able you will become to interact on a rational plane with others.  The three essential characteristics of any human interaction contract are described as follows:
1.  A contract, written or otherwise, should contact a mutual awareness and understanding of what each party will contribute to the other and receive in return.
2.  A contract sets limits upon the behavior which an individual may exhibit in a relationship.
3. Behavioral or attitudinal change is a con-sequence of the renegotiation of the contract.
Most of us do not take time periodically to examine work relationships in spite of the fact that they are constantly undergoing change.  What we do, instead, is behave toward each other based on our own attitudes of how we think we should act.  In addition, we have attitudes and expectations of how others should act toward us.  Usually, neither party is totally aware of what the other truly expects.  For instance, a report might have an attitude which leads him or her to expect support, help, and encouragement from the immediate superior.  If the superior is not aware of these expectations and does not act appropriately, the report may feel rejected.  Similarly, if you desire a certain set of behaviors from a report without informing the person of your expectations, you may be disappointed.  Through the development of a system of mutual goal setting, you can avoid such disappointment.  Written goals provide a method for clarifying the attitudes and expectations we hold for each other.  They define what each party will contribute and can realistically expect to receive.  Mutual goals place the relationship on a conscious, objective, and factual level and the interaction becomes rational and adult.  Goal setting eliminates situations filled with emotions, fears, defensiveness, and irrationality.
B.  Steps to Goal Setting:
1.  Job Descriptions
The first step in developing reports is to identify where they are now with regard to their own goals and their relationship to organizational goals.
2.  Mutual Goal Setting
Once the work areas for which the report is accountable have been mutually agreed upon, you are in a position to assist the report in setting goals.  You now have the challenging opportunity to use all of your newly acquired skills in decision making, communication, and goal setting.  Goals should be set in the areas of Production Management, Time Management, and People Management.  Once the goals are established, a series of corresponding action steps must be developed.  In addition, target dates for completion of each action step should be recorded.
Only when individuals begin to recognize what they are receiving in return for their contribution to the organization, can they commit themselves fully to the company’s goals.  In addition, during the process of goal setting, certain developmental needs of the reports will surface.  For instance, if the report is to double production efforts, there might well be a need for some additional training.  Perhaps one of the slower production areas is in filing reports and additional study in speed reading or an improvement in writing skills would help this.  You may want to develop a plan to make these courses available.  As a leader, you should be able to take action steps to develop your people.  You are now in a position to hold them accountable for reaching the company’s goals which you have mutually set.  You have fulfilled your part of the bargain and your people are fully aware that you expect them to fulfill theirs.  More importantly, because they have had such an active role in establishing the contract, their desire to achieve should be much greater.
3.  Goals Update and Evaluation
In order to monitor progress toward the achievement of mutual goals, you should hold periodic review meetings with your reports. The frequency of these conferences will depend upon your needs.
During the conference, new obstacles, roadblocks, and solutions and action steps may be developed and recorded.  You should, in conjunction with your report, examine the target dates for each action step.  Where successes have been achieved and improvements observed, you should recognize and reward the achievement.  If goals have not been reached or progress not observed, you need to discover why and try to remedy the situation.  As with most problem solving, a great many solutions emerge simply through the joint recognition and defining of the problem itself.  One may “nip a problem in the bud” as it is occurring.
Leadership can be defined as “leading others to lead themselves.”  Thus, by definition, developing people and creating a climate for increased productivity is a key function of the progressive leader.  You can virtually multiply your own potential to produce by multiplying the effectiveness of your people through common goals achievement.  Mastery of goal-setting techniques as they relate to the members of your department will increase your value to the company and your own sense of self-worth and self-fulfillment.  When people believe in you, your ideas, the company, and the opportunity to achieve their personal goals while helping the company to achieve theirs, they will work with enthusiasm and energy because their work holds meaning.  They will not only offer you their services, they will help you to open the minds, gain the confidence, and inspire the beliefs of an ever-increasing number of people, thereby speeding up the realization of mutual goals.