12/28/2006 -

A story, from “O’Seay’s Fables” . . . Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, there were two managers. We’ll call them Sean and Ivan. Sean came to work in the morning, walked over to his office, looked around, checked Microsoft Outlook for new emails, returned a few calls, then sat down at his desk . . . and then . . . waited. In a little while, sure enough, “something” happened that required his attention, so he reacted to it and resolved the issue. Afterwards, Sean went back to his office and sat down. After a minute or two, he walked through the department, someone asked him a question, he reacted to the question and answered it. Next, he went back to his office and found out that a copy machine had broken. He reacted to this situation by calling the maintenance department and having the copy machine repaired. That done, he went back to his office where a customer called with a complaint, which he reacted to and resolved. Actually, Sean is a pretty good manager because when something happens, he is almost always able to resolve the matter successfully. When he comes home at the end of the day, his spouse asks, “How was your day?” and Sean responds, “Pretty good. A few things happened.” Or “Nothing much happened today.” Or, “Pretty tough. A lot of things happened.”

Ivan is the second manager. Just like Sean, Ivan comes to work in the morning and walks into the office, checks his messages, returns phone calls and generally prepares for the day. Then, before he does anything else, he sits down at his desk and pulls out his “To Do” list from the top drawer, where it is prominently displayed. Ivan reviewed his list, set priorities, and planned what he would do for the day and approximately what time he would do it. Sure, he was interrupted a few times during the day, but he resolved the interruptions on each occasion and returned to his plan. At the end of the work day, he sat down at his desk and reviewed his list, crossed off the things he’d completed, and made a new list for the next day. Ivan is a very good manager.

When he goes home at the end of the day, his spouse asks, “How was your day?” and he responds, “Pretty good. I got a lot of things done.” Or, “Pretty good, I got interrupted a few times, but we got a lot done.”

 Very Good Managers Are Goal Oriented People.

Most management experts agree that, at the core level, there are really only two kinds of managers -- reactive and proactive. We might say that a reactive manager just waits for things to happen and then reacts to them -- if nothing happens, the reactive manager doesn’t have anything to do. The proactive manager, on the other hand, looks ahead, anticipates the day and sets goals. By setting goals, the proactive manager knows what he or she wants to accomplish and what the end result will be. One of my very valued mentors, Bob Vickery, a great Georgian, once remarked that he knew three kinds of managers – (1) those who make things happen, (2) those who watch things happen, and (3) those who say, “What happened?” While Bob has now gone on to his reward, I’m sure he would agree that managers #2 and #3 are reactive managers, but manager #1 is proactive, and a Very Good Manager.

 Examples of Very Good Managers Who Set Goals.

All Very Good Managers in America are goal oriented and make a practice of setting short term, medium term and long term goals. The great motivational author and speaker Napoleon Hill talked about it ‘way back in 1950 with his six step method of setting goals and his principles have influenced successful managers for over a generation. His book is the classic Think and Grow Rich, which we still highly recommend as enormously instructive and enjoyable.

In the 1980’s, Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson reignited interest in some of the most important and fundamental elements of management and expressed these ideas in new and interesting ways in their book, The One Minute Manager, where the second chapter deals with the critical importance of setting goals. Blanchard and Johnson, tell us that they use the 80/20 method of setting goals, which is that 80% of your really important results come from 20% of your goals. We strongly recommend this book, as well.

One of the greatest success stories in American industry is the story of Wal-Mart. Sam Walton, realizing the vital importance of goal setting, wrote in his book, Made in America, “So, I have always pursued everything I was interested in with a true passion -- some would say obsession -- to win. I’ve always held the bar pretty high for myself: I've always set extremely high personal goals.”

One of my personal heroes is former Washington Redskins Coach, the legendary George Allen. After Coach Allen had been retired from Redskins for several years, he had the opportunity to become the head football coach at Long Beach State and when he did so, he wrote down four personal goals, for himself and his team:

1. Graduate all of the players.

2. Have a winning season.

3. Win a Championship.

4. Find another challenge.

So, setting goals is a normal and natural part of management and is a defining characteristic of a successful manager. If you have goals and if you develop goal-oriented thinking, the odds for success increase dramatically. Your goals will be your friends.

 Five Reasons Goals are Important.

1. Goals guide us, give us wisdom and tell us where we’re going.

2. Goals help us understand what future accomplishments we can expect, so we set short, mid and long-term goals.

3. Goals help us develop a sense of urgency and help us set priorities.

4. Goals help us anticipate problems before they occur so that we are prepared to handle them when they occur.

5. Goals help others by getting them to participate with us in accomplishing our goals.

Characteristics of Goals -- “A goal is a statement of what we want to accomplish at some time in the future.”

• The goal should be specific, not general. • Goals should be (1) measurable and/or (2) quantifiable. • Goals should be achievable but they should cause us to stretch. The English poet Alexander Pope once wrote that “A man's reach should always exceed his grasp.” • Goals should be written. There is something about writing down information that makes it more concrete. • Look at your goals every day and read them out loud.

Four Areas Where You Can Set Goals.  Regular or routine. What we do on the job most of the time.  Problem solving, aimed at a particular problem.  Innovative or creative ideas for improvement.  Personal goals.

 Conclusion

Setting goals is an essential activity for all managers. The beginning of the New Year is an excellent time to reflect on the future and to set goals for the next twelve months. We could start by asking ourselves, “What do I want to accomplish today? This week? This year?” Then, we could take a few minutes to write down our goals and think about how we will work toward them over the next year. In fact, I think I’ll go do that right now . . . .

With the very best wishes for a happy, successful and prosperous 2007.

Back to Index