One of my first consulting jobs was working as a curriculum developer for a large project designed to improve career development programs in the America’s vocational schools. I wanted desperately to succeed. And I had my dream. I wanted to improve schools throughout the United States. Part of my job was visiting schools throughout the United States and finding out what they needed to excel.
After these site visits, I’d be so charged up I’d go back to my office, confer with colleagues, and write up a storm. I was motivated by my desire to make a difference in public education.
The project was on schedule, even ahead of schedule. The whole team worked more than sixteen hours a day, often six days a week to complete the project. When my boss left to work on another project in Europe for a month, I had hoped those of us working together would be able to manage ourselves.
But a “boss” was brought in. And his idea of leadership was to assign each of us a goal to produce a certain number of pages every day. He would collect the work from each of us at the end of the day. I doubt if he ever read what we wrote.
This completely changed our motivation. Instead of working in pursuit of a dream, we were now working for a quota. We really resented this way of being managed. The temporary boss never met with us, never gave us any feedback, but simply kept a checklist to make sure we reached our quota.
We did meet the goals he set, but for so many of us on the team, the desire to do great work, to make a contribution to education, was gone. These goals and the monitoring systems that supported them almost ruined our dream, and some people left the project and the company. They didn’t want to work for a company that did not understand their dreams.
As I think back to this experience, I am sure the quality of the work suffered as well since we had such a focus on making the quota without any quality measures, I believe now that I could still have focused on my dreams despite the overbearing management style, but at that time the single-minded focus on goals had a very negative impact on my dreams and my motivation.
A single-minded focus on goals in organizations is often an indication of a lack of trust. Goals are developed easier than trust.
When there is trust in an organization, there is less need for goals and elaborate systems for monitoring those goals. I decided then and there I would always keep my dreams alive and work in a way that supports my dreams.
I always ask clients about their dreams. Dreams connect to your soul and your life’s purpose.