Confession of a Cascading Goal Hater

Okay, of course I’m not really a hater… more of a dis-liker…but there aren’t t-shirts for that.

The truth is, I really don’t like cascading goals, which is very odd given I love goal alignment.

I feel an explanation might be in order.

As you all know I’m all about ownership and personal accountability in the professional world. We own our careers and we should also own the goals we set for ourselves and our teams.

Too often I see people wringing their hands about how hard it is to align to the goals that are cascaded to them. They are not sure how their group can impact “shareholder value” and they are pretty sure that a goal about shareholder value might not be anywhere near as important as a goal to get their job done well.

Cognitive dissonance ensues and instead of line of sight, organizations find themselves with lines of confusion.

This is where I think the answer lies: not in waiting, but in doing. I do not think it is the job of your boss to work this out for you, especially if you are in any kind of leadership position. I think it is your job to bridge the divide. Here is how I think you should address goal setting for yourself and your team.

First, get a plan. Figure out what is important for you and your team. Work out what you think the most important things are and jot down the ideas as notes. Organize them and prioritize them.

Then, look for the alignment opportunities. Look at how what you want to do might impact your boss. See if you can identify anything you should be doing that would better support your boss’ career. Take a moment to determine what you think her objectives might be and see how what you want your team to do might support those goals.

Now, here comes the powerful part… have a conversation.

Sit down with your boss with your notes and ideas. Discuss how you think the goals you want to work on align with what she needs to achieve. Take a moment to be sure you know her aspirations and her objectives.

The alignment comes not from the system, but from the shared purpose. Get aligned on purpose and the goal setting gets so much easier.

Quit using goal cascading as a reason to get stuck. Use it as a way to stand out. Jump in with both feet and own the process.

It will be harder. It will take longer. And you will actually achieve something as a result.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Thoughts on Retention

While I anxiously anticipate my Valentine posting from Amy (and my President’s day one, and my St. Patrick’s day one…) I thought I’d venture into the world of job retention. Specifically, how you can take an active role in retaining your own employment with a company. Yes, yet another reminder that you are personally responsible for your own career.

Of course, much of the thoughts I have on this subject are not necessarily based on things I’ve done right. In fact, I’ve only just recently passed the five-year mark at Oracle and that isn’t 100% accurate given that two years were spent at PeopleSoft before being acquired. 

One of the many surprises I found upon joining the development team at Oracle, was how many people have over 10 years with the company. In high tech, this is very unusual. In fact, I have encountered more seniority at Oracle than even at PeopleSoft which had an excellent reputation for retention. This joins a long list of merits of Oracle as an employer that were not widely publicized, probably a subject for another blog. 

So, what is the secret? I’m probably not giving away any trade secrets when I say that it’s probably not the pay, nor is it an environment without conflict or setbacks. I think that a key element is opportunity for personal development. Environments that attract smart people are excellent places to grow.

In fact, when I talk to people who have had long careers (10-20 years in high tech) with a single company, they are often quick to point out that they had held several different jobs, roles, or focuses over their tenure. So, if you are wondering about how to keep yourself retained in your current company and engaged in what you are doing, you might want to consider giving yourself new job challenges to keep yourself growing. While it is great if your job is already setup to challenge and grow you, even the best jobs will have dry spells.  It is at these times you will need to find your own path.

Suggestions: take on a side project, contribute to a cross-functional team, [gasp] start writing a blog, offer yourself up as a mentor and, of course, start setting goals for your personal development so you keep it top of mind as you progress.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.