The Difference Between Values and Goals, and Why it Matters

Have you ever been the creator or recipient of Management by Objectives?  The MBO model was created as a tool to measure productivity. You’re given, by a superior, a set of objectives to achieve within a given timeframe. MBO’s must be quantifiable and measurable. If you make the goal, you’re considered a success and if you don’t, you have failed on some level.

I recently heard Daniel Pink, author of Drive, state that “management is a technology that was invented in the 1850’s designed to get compliance. But we don’t need compliance today, we need engagement.”  I think that is brilliant, yet we still fall back into measuring our success by what we do rather than who we are.  This is exactly where we start to confuse goals and values.

As a leader, it is your job to lead two or more people toward a common goal or a designated outcome. That role, by nature, will often place you between your own vision of how things should go and someone else’s. Your vision is built on your own values and core beliefs about things, which will sometimes differ from those of the people you are leading and/or the people evaluating your performance. So you get drawn into occasionally bending your values to get the job done. If you do that enough times, it will start to wear away your confidence in your own ability. You begin to be defined by your job; self-doubt creeps in, drains your energy and clouds your judgment.

Take Sally. Her company is rolling out a new widget, but in order for the kickoff campaign to succeed the CEO feels strongly that the widget-users association needs to endorse the product. He asks Sally to attend the widget-users annual convention and schmooze the board president.  Sally is worn down at this point and has lost touch with who she is, so she puts on her schmooze suit and goes to the convention, smiling and acting like she is having a great time, all the while wishing she was at home in her slippers watching a movie.  While she does have her schmooze limits, she still manages a dinner invitation. She lands the endorsement but afterward goes home feeling used and slimy. She thinks about quitting her job.

On the other hand, if Sally is very clear about her value/intention of being straightforward and appropriate in all business dealings, this isn’t even a decision for her because of the automatic boundaries she has created to support that intention. She agrees to meet with the board president, but arranges a lunch appointment along with another colleague. Her company CEO already knows what Sally will and won’t do, because her consistent behavior has established boundaries that are clear and don’t have to be reviewed often. She has proven herself by behaving according to her values and still succeeding in accomplishing goals for the company.

Do you see the distinction between being goal-driven and values-driven? The value defines who you intend to BE, and the goals mark the things you do to support you in that.

What does this mean to a leader? Freedom. If I were to ask you today, “What are your deepest core values or intentions for your life?” a typical answer might be “I want to work for 12 more years at the executive level and then own my own business so that I have more autonomy and more time to spend with my family.” That sounds ambitious and admirable, right? And it’s measurable, just like MBO’s say it should be. It’s also a goal, because it centers on what you will do.

What is the value or intention behind it? For different people there will be different answers, but here are some possible variations:

  • I am a person who gives 100% of my skill to all of my work.
  • I am a natural leader and am comfortable bringing people together and guiding them to accomplish a goal.
  • I enjoy inspiring others toward their own accomplishments.
  • I am a person who requires autonomy in my life and my work.
  • My family comes first, always.
  • I have an abundance mentality; I believe there is enough to go around and that I will always have what I need financially to live comfortably.

What this means to you is that you become liberated from those dilemmas that come from not being sure about who you are and what you believe in. If you’re a leader and you have been asked to execute a project but you’re being micromanaged, your value of requiring autonomy will not let you put up with it. Because you have reconnected with this value and it has been brought to the front of your consciousness again, you naturally create boundaries that you make clear to those around you. Over time you will consequently develop skills to work with a micromanager so that your value of autonomy is preserved.

It’s a matter of breaking the pattern noted by Wayne Dyer, PhD, who describes it as a do, have, be mentality. If we do the right things, then we will have what we need to be a success. This is essentially the Management by Objectives model, and will often result in making you feel like you can never do enough. He instead suggests focusing on the reverse, or Be, Have, Do. If we will focus on BEING who we intend, then we will naturally have what we need to do what is necessary to BE what we intend. That is success, and that is freedom!

Can you name your core values or intentions, right now? If so, I’d love for you to post a comment and tell us about them.  If they have grown vague for you, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary consultation so that we can bring them back into focus.

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