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A Leadership Secret: Replace Goals With Processes Using The Shared Dream

By Brent Filson

Summary: Most leaders have been taught to set goals for their groups. However, the author asserts that goal-setting is not the most effective way to lead. He suggests that turning goals into processes achieves more results, and he details a step by step plan to do it.

I bring leadership processes that help leaders get more results faster continually. The results will come in a specific length of time. The results will go beyond what the leaders are achieving now. The results can be measured, validated, and used as springboards for even more results. The results can be translated into money saved/earned. The results can't be achieved without the help of Leadership Talks. And yet...

Yet... getting this big jump in results scares many leaders and can lead to burn out in the people they lead.

You'd think leaders would welcome such results. No such luck. Here's why: They see results as a point not a process.

Seeing results in this way prevents you from getting the more substantial results you're really capable of. Look, results are limitless. Those who don't know that don't know much about leadership. Those who believe that must believe in the process-reality of results.

Let's look at the difference between a goal and a process. You've been dealing with goals and processes your whole career, but it's important to your success to see the difference in leadership terms.

A goal is the result or achievement toward which effort is directed. A process is a continuous series or actions or changes. A goal can hinder results. (The word goal derives from an Old English word, "gaelan" meaning "to hinder.") A process can multiply them.

I worked with the head of the head of manufacturing of a global company. Responding to relentless cost cutting pressures, he was continually setting formidable quarterly stretch goals on quality and productivity.

The line workers were meeting the goals; but upon reaching one summit of goals, they inevitably faced another (the next quarterly goals) and were getting burned out.

I suggested that to avoid this burn out, they look at the results not in terms of quarterly goals but in terms of processes. I gave him a two-step process to do it.

(1) Define your goals. The manufacturing division had to deliver numbers to corporate, productivity increases, quality advancements, etc. Those numbers were goals they had to absolutely meet. Meeting them was vital to their jobs and careers.

Viewing them as the right goals and adhering to their commitment to meet those goals are necessary first steps in translating those goals into processes.

2. Apply the Shared Dream. The Shared Dream can be one of the most powerful tools in leadership. Yet few leaders I know are aware of it, if not in name at least in activity.

Leadership processes are the best processes, and the Shared Dream is one of the best of the best. Because it is one key way we can translate results into processes.

Translating results into processes involves:

* a team effort; it cannot be done simply by fiat.

* the ardent commitment of all parties concerned, people can't be left out or left behind.

* continual and systematic support, evaluation and monitoring of the processes.

* the application of the Shared Dream.

What is the Shared Dream? It is simply the uniting of your vision as a leader and the dream of the people you lead then using the union to get great results.

For instance, the manufacturing division was supposed to get 3 to 5% reduction in costs per year, irrespective of inflation.

To make the yearly goals, the division had to meet quarterly benchmarks. The problem was that the cost reductions were the division's and the company's vision, not really the line-workers dream.

The employees dream, we found out through a number of facilitated on-the-site meetings, was predominately job security. (That was a pretty obvious finding but one we needed to nail down with interactions with the employees.) Lower cost overseas manufacturing was cutting into the company's margins. The threat was real that they would close shop in the states and take the manufacturing overseas.

So, there was a gap between vision of the division leaders, constant cost reductions, and the dream of the division workers, job security.

Of course, you might say that cost reductions were in fact all about job security. But the employees didn't see it that way. "That's the malarkey the suits feed us," said one worker.

The idea was to have them move from being goal-oriented to being process-oriented. That change of viewpoint needed a change of commitment.

Without a Shared Dream, with the goals not transformed into processes, people were getting burned out, going through the motions, anger, suppressing, tired, wanting out.

The division leader got together with the employees in a number of on-the-job meetings and talked about their dream. They came up with the idea that if their manufacturing was competing in the world market place, the best way to compete was to become "world class" manufacturing enterprise.

The people researched the requirements of being world class manufacturing, using top world manufacturers are benchmarks. They came up with eight quantitative measures that defined "world class." These measurements included continual productivity and quality increases, speed of throughput, etc.

By the way, when I say "people" I mean this came from the rank and file. Representatives of workers groups participated.

Together, the leaders and rank and file, put together action programs to meet those targets. Those action programs were processes. In essence, they put together a Shared Dream. They changed results into processes.

"Let's meet those targets together!" is a Shared Dream if they and you want it badly. It's not a Shared Dream if it's your vision - you have to get quarterly decreases.

Your vision is not motivational unless it matches their dream. Just because it is your vision does not mean it is their dream. Don't confuse your order for their dream. A gap between vision and dream handicaps organizations.

Here is the Shared Dream process.

-- Define Your Vision

-- Define their dream.

-- Combine the vision and dream to get the Shared Dream.

-- Test the Shared Dream.

-- Describe the rewards and punishments of achieving or failing to achieve the Shared Dream.

-- Make the final cut at describing the Shared Dream.

-- Implement the Shared Dream as a trigger for turning goals into processes.

-- Monitor and evaluate the progress.

One might say, "That's a lot of trouble to go through. Why don't you just tell them what they have to do and make them do it?"

But that's the point. Your ordering them is far different in terms of results outcomes than their motivating themselves to make it happen. And it won't happen unless you go through the rigorous process of turning their goals into processes using the Shared Dream.

2006 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

PERMISSION TO REPUBLISH: This article may be republished in newsletters and on web sites provided attribution is provided to the author, and it appears with the included copyright, resource box and live web site link. Email notice of intent to publish is appreciated but not required: mail to:

About The Author
The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. - and for more than 20 years has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at


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