Have you ever been in the scenario where you’ve been asked by your leader to fulfill an absolutely unattainable goal based on the time, resources, and team that you have available? Instead of having a realistic conversation about it, you’re given an ultimatum where you’re tempted to “lie, cheat, and steal” to get it done which is against your character.
Does this scenario really happen anymore in small or large organizations? And, how effective is this “motivation”?
A New UGA Study
Sadly, we hear a lot about cheating in the workplace these days, and it can come from some very lofty and successful people and organizations. A recent article from the University of Georgia (UGA) Terry College of Business highlighted research that concluded “It’s the desire for self-protection that primarily causes employees to cheat.”
A Personal Example
I can remember back in the late 70’s when some key military units didn’t have the resources to reach fully mission capable status. Yet out of fear, some commanders fudged the numbers rather than admit they could not measure up. The pressure to look good (or to get what they want) can take out dedicated people.
The Pulse of People
At the same time, let’s not ignore the significant value of stretch goals in organizational success and personal human growth, too. Without them, we have no progress. Yet, when taken to the point of unreachable goals, or when the goal is one that is beyond our control, the stage is set for the ethical problems noted above.
It’s so critical for the honorable leader to have a keen understanding of the human domain. People with unique behaviors and talents can react different ways (and they will), but we must face the dangerous reality that people desperately want to succeed at all costs.
Unfortunately, when they’re backed into a corner and cannot withstand the light of truth, these qualities become at risk by rationalizing and cutting corners to cover up their actions and performance.
So, what’s the solution?
“Honorable leadership must prevail to get the maximum performance out of your team. Your goal is to wisely manage tactical goals and results while avoiding pressure to meet unrealistic expectations.” [Tweet This]
Follow these four steps* to meet your goals and help your team succeed the right way –
1.Recognize the realities of the human domain.
– People want to succeed.
– People want to be valued
– People want to look good to others.
– Peer pressure is powerful.
– Management pressure can be even more powerful.
2. Clarify and create an atmosphere that feels safe. Build trust.
– Clarify expectations. Dialogue and gain agreement with the understanding that at any time the project gets off course, they will let you know.
– Engage in discussions about what is achievable and what is not.
– Listen to their ideas.
– Set the example by being authentic and vulnerable. Let them know you know that you’re not perfect and you don’t expect them to be either.
3. Connect with your people.
– Connect based on your and their unique talents. Not sure what they are on your team? I use behavioral assessments like Leadership Behavior DNA everyday in my consulting and coaching work to determine a person’s hard-wired traits.
– Connect with their hearts by letting them know they are valued and appreciated.
4. Collaborate with the mindset that your goal is to help them be successful.
– Communicate via an ongoing dialogue of realistic discussions about goals and challenges. Allow them to debate the issues with you and listen to their words and pay attention to their energy/emotions.
– Solicit status reports and give them feedback.
– Provide coaching, training, and support as needed to help them succeed.
When you have been diligent with this process, you can almost guarantee success for your people and you have helped them stay honorable as well. And when the goal is met, pause to celebrate together!
The Right Balance
Honorable leaders recognize that they are working with humans who operate in the human domain. Healthy relationships matter. Dictating unrealistic goals puts them in a corner, and that’s dangerous for everyone. Getting results should also be the goal, and this model will you get there. Accept the challenge of achieving the mission and taking care of your people. There will be tension—but finding that balance pays big dividends and insures that you lead with honor. What has been your experience? Please comment below.
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