In science, there is an interesting dynamic. It is the law of expansion and contraction, the process that happens when matter is affected by outside forces.
For example, when you heat water to a certain point, it expands and turns to steam. When you cool it down, it turns to liquid – or even ice.
Did you know there is a short word in the English language that captures this law succinctly? And, likely, it is a word you use often.
It is the word, “Goal.”
According to the dictionary, it comes from Middle English and essentially means “limit” or “boundary.”
While we normally think of goals as expansionary, the origin of the word suggests that it is more of a boundary, where we are limiting ourselves.
These would seem to be opposing ideas until you consider the power of engaging BOTH of these forces.
What this means is that goal setting is a two-part process.
- Expansion – It requires that we broaden our horizons. When setting goals, we look beyond where we are now to where we can reach (or expand) in the future.
- Contraction – The second part of goals – the boundaries and limitations – requires that we set a deadline, create a plan, and create boundaries that keep us from becoming distracted.
Goals are met when expansion and contraction work together.
Unmet goals are an indicator that one or both of these facets is not being addressed.
As a leader, you are responsible for attaining organizational goals. As an individual, you are responsible for goals as well. Think about the goals you set at the beginning of the year, both personally and professionally. Are they on track? Or have they fallen woefully behind?
Here are some reasons people give for why that happens.
- We didn’t set clear and measurable goals.
- We can’t see beyond the day-to-day in our business.
- We can’t seem to come up with any new ideas.
- We set goals that are unattainable within the restraints of time and budget.
- We were sidetracked by other things that had to be done.
- We lost track of time.
- We got stuck, and the progress came to a halt.
- We didn’t set any goals or make any plans.
These are simply violations of the law of expansion and contraction – and an indicator that no external forces have been applied.
Here’s the good news: You can change this!
Here is how you can use the two-part GOALS formula with some external force to get back on track.
- Expand your vision.
Not every leader is a visionary in the fullest sense of the word; and that is okay, if you are wise enough to have someone on your team who is. This could be a management team member or a consultant with outside perspective. Every organization needs those who can expand the vision. To identify the visionary leaders in your organization, consider using this tool for assessment: Maxwell Method of Sales LEADERSHIP Impact Report.
- Contract (or eliminate) distractions.
Vision can be blocked or blurred by distractions. So while seeing all the possibilities that exist, it is also important to narrow your field of vision to two or three that you can actively pursue. This will require that you eliminate distractions. This may mean you need to table an idea for a later time, say no, or delegate it to another individual or team within your organization.
Outline Your Plan of Action
- Expand on details.
A strong organization has both big picture thinkers and detailers. When outlining a plan, you need those who can think in terms of details. These are normally the S- and C-wired members of your team. They will present the process, the steps, and the risks involved. A good leader will listen to their advice and assessments, and welcome their questions.
- Contract details to action steps.
When it comes time to put those details into action, this is where the big picture thinkers come into play. They will quickly identify the 3-5 action steps that need to be taken in order to get the project or program underway. Combined with the details identified, this ensures the work gets done…and that it is done right.
Ask for Help
- Expand your capabilities with a team.
There is only so much one person can do. But with the right team, the possibilities are limitless. Having a team gives you added effort, skills, and ideas. It expands the capabilities of your organization exponentially.
- Contract the responsibilities.
When a leader assesses that goals are not being met, he or she often thinks it is because an employee is not putting forth enough effort. Consider that the problem may be quite the opposite. If you have an employee – a normal overachiever – who is no longer achieving, it may well be they have too many responsibilities.
As a leader, one of your most important strengths is in knowing how to level the load. You do this by identifying clearly what needs to be done and then finding the best person to do each part. If you ensure your employees are working in their strengths zone at least 70% of the time, productivity will be optimized.
Lead with Influence.
- Expand your scope.
John C. Maxwell says it well, “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” In order to reach goals and affect change, you must expand your scope of influence. This means being true to principles and setting the example that others will want to follow. Essentially, it means owning the goal and being able to influence others to own it with you.
- Contract your opinion.
If your idea of doing something is “the way it has always been done,” it may be time to revise your opinion. In fact, it may be time to consider the advice of others. A good leader is solid on principle, grounded in passion, and yet willing to hear and consider the thoughts of his or her people. There are times when listening influences more than speaking, and a good leader knows the appropriate timing.
- Expand your mind to embrace the possibilities.
Sometimes the greatest limitation exists between your own two ears. Especially as a leader, it is important that you keep an open mind for new ideas and ways to reach goals. For a leader, mindset is everything. Your team relies on you to set the intention and see the possibilities.
- Contract negative input.
It is also important to limit outside negative input. Surround yourself with those who have a “can-do” attitude. Ensure your team is composed of those with good attitudes. Where an issue arises, address it promptly in order to contain the negativity.
If your goals are behind at this point in the year, you can use the GOALS formula to turn it around. You can be the external force that affects the laws of expansion and contraction in your organization!
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.