# 178: Goal-Orientation as a Mindset
Story behind the Passage
Usually, when thinking about management topics, I write about Peter Drucker’s works. If there is one thing that Drucker perfectly balanced (in my view), it is the mixture of deep humanism and getting things done the managerial way. Usually, people only embody and/or are skilled in one of these areas. But he stood for both, even though, one has to add this, he never worked as a corporate manager himself. A similar story holds true for Kepner and Tregoe who also came from the research side before developing their decision-making and problem-solving approach(es) for the practice of management.
The reason why I am thinking about management issues again today is because I am just realizing how much capacity there is in expanding your managerial skills. What I mean is: You can always get better at anything but there is a point when you realize that something has happened that can really move mountains. In the case of managerial practice, I would call this a moment of habituation. Yes, I know, this sounds like one of these sophisticated bullshit terms. What I simply mean is that you internalize a certain way of doing things to a degree that it becomes a habit, or rather, a mindset. Mindset to me means: attitude + values.
But there is an important issue that I want to point out when it comes to goal-orientation as a mindset. This is related to what I wrote earlier about the commander’s intent (# 6: Post-Corona Leadership, Commander’s Intent, and no “Damn Chicken Salad” | by Silke Schmidt | Medium). The commander’s intent basically describes an agile way of achieving goals. Still, the goal must be defined very clearly beforehand and communicated as such. So, what I am focusing on today implies this but I am talking about the path leading to this; the process of you as a commander learning to make it a habit to never start anything without a goal in mind while still being open to any path that takes you and your team there.
To make this a bit clearer: I had a meeting this morning and it was only a first getting-to-know encounter after we had briefly exchanged some insights on a topic before. So, obviously, there was some common ground but we were far from starting a concrete project together. Had I had this meeting maybe one or two years ago, it would probably have been interesting and opened up future potential. But there would most likely not have been any specific results or projects emerging from it. This makes all the difference nowadays: When I approach a meeting like this — any meeting — I always do so with the goal in mind of arriving at a specific project together, of achieving a goal. Sometimes, like today, it was not even clear which direction such a project could take. Neither did any of us have any idea of what the content could be. Still, we arrived at something. And that takes a decision as well.
“A systematic decision is the product of a great many small judgements, organized and summarized.” Yes, decision is a big word but it has not lost any relevance today. Even though there is more collective decision-making going on, i.e., less hierarchical, the fact that results depend on decisions is as important as ever. So, my focus when reading this passage, from the background of what I am writing above, is on decisions that lead toward goal-attainment by taking baby steps. And I totally agree that this always takes a plentitude of micro decisions that you make in your head, even while still speaking and listening to your counterparts.
When I say above that goal-orientation is a mindset, this just ensures that you enforce decision-making in a way. Not against your conversation partners, but with them, of course. Still, you take leadership by making it clear and also explicit that your intention is to reach some kind of result. In our project-based work world, this goal is usually some sort of project or steps that lead to one — however big or small this maybe. So, this is exactly why it takes many micro-decisions in-between because you yourself need to constantly assess how you get back on track to reach this.
Now, what turns this into an art actually, which is really cool but also challenging, is the fact that you really need to keep your mind open. And I really mean this almost in spiritual terms. You have the goal orientation as a mindset and if that really is the case, you can relax and be completely open to anything that happens — to anything that comes up. At least, this is my experience. Whenever I start a convseration with the specific content of the respective goal already pre-packaged in my mind, this usually backfires. I know this sounds counter-intuitive because one might think that the more input you prepare, the clearer and faster a decision can be reached. But it does not work this way, I am afraid.
I think, what I call “spiritual” above is somehow related to my beloved concept of gut feeling again. I think, this has to do with people. It is that simple. If you listen well to the others and if you really pay attention to the energy in the room, you will notice where the path is taking you and all the others around the table. Since you know that whatever project emerges as the result of an exchange can only materialize if all people involved have some passion for it, you have to follow this path instead of insisting on whatever you thought through before. That is actually the beauty of it all. Usually, you do end up with some jointly achieved result that somehow feels better than your original “plan.” And you still walk out with this wonderful feeling of achievement — that you got somewhere, that a decision was made, that the next step is clear, that small results have already been achieved.
Given this feeling of progress on my part, the realization that internalizing goal-orientation to such a degree is much more than just technique or skill, makes me feel really amazed and motivated at the same time. I wonder where I will be standing when I reread this post in maybe one or two years from now. The chances are good now that I will have achieved some great goals with great people…
1) How has your goal-orientation changed in the course of your lifetime?
2) Are you a good decision-maker? Why/not?
3) How do you personally define “rational management”?