Don’t Let Your To-Do List Override Your Good Sense

By this time you’ve heard story after story of Black Friday gone wrong.  Shoppers with a laser focus on “making the season bright” allowed themselves to be willing to hurt another to achieve their prized purchase.  What a way to start off the holiday season wrong on so many levels…

"Leaders" at work face this all the time too.

Recently a colleague told me that his boss asked him to run a team-building session for co-workers.  The group needed more awareness of how they behave with each other, and also how they depend on each other.  He accepted the assignment thinking his boss had a genuine concern and he could assist.

The boss didn't look at my colleague's design until the morning of the session.  She told him she would lead one part of the agenda. It played out as her reading from his notes with little eye contact in front of the group at the end of the session. My colleague said it actually went better than he expected.

Then the next day the boss fired two people.  Yes, they had been in the team-building session.

The firings were not spontaneous.  Knowing this company culture well, I suspect she had this planned before the team-building session was delivered.  If her goal was to terminate two under-performing employees and completely obliterate any positive impact of the team session the previous day, then check that one off the list.

Goal 1, Mission 0

Of course I am sure that was not her intent.  I suspect that she was suffering from what coach Marshal Goldsmith calls “goal obsession.”  In his August 2004 article in FastCompany magazine titled, Goal 1, Mission 0, Goldsmith says,

“[Goal obsession is] the force at play when we get so wrapped up in achieving our goal that… we do it at the expense of a larger mission.

It's one of those paradoxical traits that are usually the sources of our success, but taken too far can become blatant causes of failure. You see this when people become fixated on the wrong goals. Given their history of success, they end up achieving a result that does more damage than good to their organizations, their families, and themselves.”

Good leadership of people includes applying logic and good sense.  Having observed and coached a number of managers who have put the goal before the mission, I am inclined to believe the boss in my story had compartmentalized these as “tasks” she needed to accomplish.  Team building for group?  Check.  Terminate underperformers?  Check.

I know it is not as simple as that, but some kind of flawed thinking is going on or everyone I know would not relate to this story.  It happens.

Check out your to-do list for this week.  Is there any area where you might be sacrificing the mission for the satisfaction of checking off one more item?

Image from Microsoft Clipart Gallery

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