Is your leader you pushing for the impossible?

agile, blog, management30

A new year. Time for goalsetting! New ambitious goals! In many organizations, there is a kick-off meeting, where leadership presents the goals for 2021. An increase in revenue of double digits! 15 million revenue goal! Exponential profit growth! Expand the business to all continents!


Some leaders believe you should push people! You set challenging goals; otherwise, they won’t deliver. Wow… seriously? Is that not something we left behind us decades ago? Do we really need to explain to leaders theory X and theory Y? If you, as a leader, try to motivate your organization by setting unrealistic goals, something is seriously wrong.

There is scientific evidence that when people have a goal, they perform better when they don’t have a goal. I am not saying that you should say to people do your best, and it will be okay. However, there is something between setting unrealistic goals that a leader came up with and just telling people to do their best!

Giving an organization unrealistic goals is, in my opinion, disrespectful to your co-workers. It is a sign that you don’t trust them. Organizations set unrealistic goals, connect KPIs and bonuses to goals, and also performance goals. At the end of the year, the KPIs are reviewed, and too bad you did not make it. Just a small bonus for you. How does this motivate people?

I even heard worse… I heard stories of organizations where leaders raise the goals during the year. Things are going well; let’s adjust our targets. When I play a game, I want to win. I don’t expect people to change the rules of the game during the game. That would make me very upset. I would also be upset when a leader would change the goals during the year. That would be cheating for me.

If the focus is only on growth, you could call it also a tumor. Growth itself is not a goal; it can never be, in my opinion. There should be something else, a mission, vision, purpose, etc. It is like discussing if happier people are more successful or are successful people happier? I would not find it that interesting. I know one thing for sure: I want happy people in an organization. When people are happy, they will create value and positively surprise the organization. If an organization has a purpose that speaks to people, that connects to people, growth will come. People will try to realize the purpose, do everything possible to make it happen. Who knows, they can even realize the purpose without growing double digits in all continents. If that would make a leader upset, for whatever reason (probably shareholders), something is wrong, and you should maybe question yourself if you want to work at that organization.

In the same category, there is another leadership trick that worries me. Some leaders always have a but. A team presents a solution, the leader shares its feedback: it looks nice but would it not be better bla bla bla. Cause if the leader would say it is ok, the team could become lazy. The leader believes the team needs to be challenged. Would you do this with kids? Nice drawing, but you know…. Probably not, so why would you do this with teams? It is again the belief people always need to be challenged. However, sometimes you can also say thank you, you did a great job. Let’s discuss the next task or project.

It is January, we all have good intentions. Make 2021 a better year than in 2020. Let’s also try to get rid of this always-challenge-people-otherwise-they-won’t-work mindset! Let’s also keep improving management and leadership in 2021!


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