The working environment is extremely goal and output orientated. Leaders often ask for things to be done or specify goals to be attained within a predetermined timeline. They may share some words of advice or make suggestions, but after that it’s up to the employee to figure out the planning process and actions needed to get the job done. That’s all well and good if the employee knows how to perform the entire task. If we look at the action diagram, it’s apparent that there are core phases to the process of goal-attainment.

Phase 1: Goal transfer and development

The goal has most likely been set by the leader and is an organisational goal and an external task request. The employee must convert this external task to an internal one for themselves. It’s often a process where the employee must figure out how to transform the goal into something that has meaning and value to them. If the employee can redefine the task, then we can move on to phase 2. However, if this is not possible, then procrastination is likely to set in as the concept of “what’s in it for me” is not satisfied.

Phase 2: Planning

The most important phase. The goal is split into specific steps that follow certain sequences. It’s important to be clear on what actions are needed and when to progress towards the goal; perhaps visually drawing the flow of actions to be performed and by when. The visual view enables one to identify order and challenges. Each item can be further broken down into sub-sections such as resources needed, ordering of items, delivery time, communication with a team member, etc. to prevent bottle necks.

Phase 3: Execution and action

This is where execution and action of the planning stage takes shape. We are now moving into physical doing and creating momentum in the various tasks. People might jump into this phase and do the planning as they go along. It might work, but it might severely backfire as challenges that may be encountered along the way are not taken into consideration.

Phase 4: Feedback

Feedback is required to establish the progress made, and if there has been any deviation from the goal. The feedback comes from two streams: the external environment such as the leader or others and one’s own internal self-evaluation. Positive feedback will encourage one to continue with the action plan. Negative feedback, if delivered correctly, should motivate one to review and assess the process and to modify actions and then move towards the goal.

Herein lies the challenge! Very few people learn this process. We just assume that everyone knows how to convert goals for personal meaning, planning, action and reassessment processes. Think about it, it’s a learned life skill which is not necessarily taught in schools, colleges or universities. Some people have tried and didn’t get it right, and eventually gave up. There is a struggle to commit to goals, and it’s easy to give up and get distracted, which results in procrastination and leaders will therefore become frustrated with the employee.

The suggestion we have is for leaders to not take work tasks away from struggling employees, but rather to train and teach them the cognitive skills to devise plans that enable them to meet goals. Assisting employees to understand and identify problems effectively will bear phenomenal fruit in the long term. Don’t assume people know how to plan. Empower employees to be the initiator of their own goals and actions.


Goal transfer and development
Execute and action