Boss Test of Goal Crafting
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Here is a basic test to know if you’ve picked the right goals for your team.
Start with a simple question — Can you explain your goals to your boss and their peers in simple terms? If yes, you may be heading in the right direction, but keep going.
Then ask if your boss can explain and sell at least one of your goals to their boss. If so, that’s better. You’re doing something right and have a higher chance of being relevant to the organization.
But don’t stop there. Can your boss’s boss explain that goal to their boss? If so, you’ve made it. You’re highly likely working on the right things and will potentially survive and advance in your career, provided you deliver those.
This is my “boss test of goal-crafting.” Some of you reading this article may like these questions and agree with them. But many of you may feel that this is just doing what your boss wants regardless of what you and your team think you all should work on. After all, isn’t it your job, as the servant leader of the team, to support and help your team with what they want to work on?
Yes and no. Yes, you should help your team and support what they would like to get done. But no, you should not work on things just because you or your team thinks they are right. You will be doing a disservice to your team if you cannot channel their energy toward what your organization needs, which is what the boss test can help you figure out.
But what should you do when the stuff your team is dealing with is in shambles, and those need fixing? Should you dedicate all your energy to fixing those even if your goal fails the boss test? Alternatively, how about when you and your team know what to do, and your boss is incompetent? Maybe, but tread carefully and better produce a surprisingly positive outcome. But I wouldn’t, under normal circumstances, without first crafting a case to explain to my boss and their peers. After all, if the stuff your team is dealing with is in shambles, your boss better care about it. And it is your job to craft the right story to communicate to make them care.
Does this rule apply to even those areas that are not customer-facing or not in the critical path of the value-generation pursuit of your organization? Absolutely, and even more certainly, yes. The farther you are from value generation in your organization, the more critical it is for you as a manager to craft objectives that matter to value generation. As a manager, finding out what’s important is your job. If you don’t know, you’re not networking sufficiently with the people above you, or you’ve not learned how your organization’s business model works. Fix those problems first.
(I’m inspired to write this article tonight as one of the managers at work asked me today to clarify her understanding of the business value of her team’s work. Kudos to her.)