The Goal is to explain Goal-oriented Thinking
Ha… How’s that for a title 🙂 OK… Back to topic:
“Goal-oriented thinking” is a term being vomited by HR-specialists and TED-speakers since the invention of employment, proving its usefulness by statistically being used as in just about 100% of job interviews. Due to its clear exhagerated use, I believel, goal-oriented thinking has become trivialized by society, landing into paraphrased nirvana.
I remember reading about old idioms and their literal meaning, which provides more obvious examples of the lost meaning behind what people say and, before you cry foul because of the obviousness of being goal-oriented, try to explain yourself what it truly means to be goal-oriented in less than five seconds (by the way, rule of thumb is especially crass).
The first attempt would be, as it with the meaning behind the phrase during job interviews, to explain goal-oriented thinking as focusing on finishing something you’ve started. While an almost legitimate explanation, you have to think about the consequence behind it: if you focus on finishing what you have started in your job, you’re not exceptional, you’re just proving that you are not an imbecile. If you’re a sales person, not focusing on achieving your revenue goal means sitting around playing Angry Birds all day, which is fine if your goal is to achieve a high-score in Angry Birds.
This is not goal-oriented thinking. It’s just common sense.
Goal-oriented thinking is about the short-term stuff.
In an episode of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Mac won tickets to take all of his friends to Paris. After a lot of wacky events, typical of the series, everyting seems to be set for their ride to the airport and the lovely Mrs. Foster gives Mac a long, tight hug. “I got all I needed from this hug”, Mrs. Foster says, shedding a tear for the time she won’t be seeing Mac. Long story short, Mac gets to the check-in counter and can’t find his tickets. The plane leaves with Mrs. Foster and her senior-citizen friends on board drinking Champagne.
While definitely not something that should set an example for its target audience, I remember laughing my tits off with this scene. Maybe it was Sir Paul McCartney who best narrowed it down to:
Animation is not only for children. It is also for adults who take drugs.
Anyway… Mrs. Foster summarized short-term goal-oriented thinking in a way that kids and substance-abusing adults can understand. She saw a situation, she needed something and she planned and executed in a few seconds. To how many situations in your life, theft of course notwithstanding, can you apply or translate that?
Think about an employee who does not fulfil his tasks properly. Feeling pressure from your own boss, who expected results and called you a shithead, you go to your emploee and call him a shithead. By “calling him a shithead” I mean “verbally punishing him and making him feel less human about his own self”. The point is that, unfortunately we are animals with instincts and cave-men were already whacking each other in the head with big sticks for whatever reasons they had.
While this reaction wouldn’t apply to all of you, it is something all of us have at least considered once in a while. But have you ever stopped to think what can be achieved from an attitude such as this one? Hey, if your answer is “to blow off some steam” than this is definitely a legitimate reaction (although I would suggest tennis or an martial-art for that), but what does it achieve for you professionally? Remember, you have a contract that states that your actions are to be in the best interest of your employer for a certain amount of weekly hours. Let’s try and list the results of calling your employee a shithead:
- Your employee is going to be offended.
- Your employee is going to be frustrated.
- It is going to take a while for your employee to recover and get back to focusing on his work.
- Your employee is going to be angry at you and start talking shit behind your back, proliferating the message that you are a shitty boss to the whole division.
- Should said employee be very professional, his performance is going to remain equal at best. Usually, he just starts not giving much of a fuck, especially when orders come from you.
Now think about what your objective was before talking to said employee: boss said task not delivered, your responsibility was to have task delivered. Go talk to employee, make sure all next tasks delivered. Simple, right?
Now establish the tools you have at your disposal, the constraints you have to take action, and you’re good to go. For those of you familiar with Scrum, this should sound familiar and, no wonder, since Scrum basically has its success milestones all based on short-term goal-setting.
Between threatening the employee with his job or listening to his challenge with the task and offering help within the aforementioned constraints, the chance of success is geometrically multiplied if your action begins with knowing and analyzing what your objective is. And while my example is solely based on conversation techniques (which work with our boss as well, by the way), it applies to planning activities and basically all aspects of life as well.
Going back to goal-oriented thinking, I believe wee can all agree that I did not answer the question as to what goal-oriented thinking is. But that was never my intention. The thing is, you have to make things work with that you have at your disposal. While my example of infusing most actions with a previous goal-setting analysis works wonders for me and required some hard work to learn, especially to convince myself that my previous strategy wasn’t working. In my times as a screenwriter, I remember having three months to write a draft for a feature, basically writing 10% of it during the first eleven weeks and the rest in under a week. My goal was to “finish a screenplay” and, unfortunately, my brain couldn’t process a goal that was set over one week in the future. While sub-dividing a goal into smaller mile-stones, the ideal time-frame is fifteen minutes, but that is kind of hard to apply to most things in life 🙂
In this case, I am left with no choice but to let you figure out what is best for yourself. Have fun.