3 Ways to Create Meaningful Goals to Increase Engagement and Trust

Mom told us breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Andrew Carnegie told us that “if you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” There is some debate these days over whether breakfast is so important, but there is no debate about goals.

I am not saying that you don’t know that goals are important. I have never worked with a client who did not have goals or at least acknowledge their importance. Not many companies survive without some sense of that. What I am saying is: Knowing something is import­ant and actually making it important are two different things.

Like so many others factors in life, the bustle and distractions that start the moment we wake up too often push goals to the proverbial back burner. They may always “be there”—listed in your company’s business plans and annual reports. But when did you last look at them? Outta sight, outta mind. And the longer you ignore them, the more likely you are to rush to address them when the end of the year comes and you need to update them.

Wake up! That approach to goals is not only dated but also shows a complete lack of caring that is beyond bad for your millennials and your business as a whole. The most thoughtless, misguided, and disconnected goals are created in an act of disingenuous annual compli­ance at the eleventh hour.

If you care so little about your company’s goals that you pay only token annual homage to them, why should millennials or any employee care more than that?

I once had a boss who wrote down his goals for the year on a piece of paper the size of a Post-it and carried it around in his wallet all year long. Every time he opened his wallet, he saw those goals. They were with him always until the end of the year when he pulled out the paper and assessed them. He cared that much.

But even that closeness only gets you so far, because you need to care about the goals of the people who work for you, too. In other words, when it comes to goals, waking up only solves part of the problem. You can find the source of that problem in one word that appears three times in Andrew Carnegie’s otherwise excellent quote: “your.”

This is not just about you.

How do you create meaningful goals that will command the thoughts, energy, and commitment of others?

  1. Have a shared vision and shared goals that create alignment between individuals, the team, and the company. Connect the dots: Show that you care about where they and the company are going, not just what they are doing, by connecting what you need them to do to their “why.”
  1. Lead with transparency and purpose to increase engagement and trust. Embracing meaningful goals not only shows millennials how much you care, but further ensures that you embrace their vision and in turn have them embrace yours.
  1. Measure to create results. Don’t just establish the link between individual performance and team goals as well as organizational goals/success; have metrics for progress toward them and then plow achievements into new collaborations and innovations. Build a plan to maintain them and to ensure individuals and teams that embrace the vision for the company.

I have had some BHAG (big hairy audacious goals) personally and professionally—for both myself and others—in my life. But it wasn’t until I really understood the power of aligning and sharing individ­ual, team, and company goals and making them meaningful that I truly understood how to achieve them by moving from “me” to “we.” You must make others’ goals a central part of your world, particularly through how you engage and align individual goals with the team’s and company’s goals to show that you care.

What can you do tomorrow to create alignment around shared goals for your millennials?

Need help answering this question and getting started? Let us help you stop chasing relevance and make it happen. For more on the power of relationships, check out Part One of Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace TODAY.