The process of setting goals is a common theme in the training, books, blogs, and every other place that leadership is discussed. I believe that we need to put an equal weight on the process of evaluating those goals after the work is completed.
But, to be truthful, evaluations are hard, messy, and often gut-wrenching. It is the path of least resistance to simply say “It worked” or “It didn’t work” and then move on to the next thing. The responsible leader needs to help his or her people dig in to discover the lessons to be learned and the changes that need to be made.
Recently, I’ve watched one of our teams at work move through this process fairly well. They asked pointed questions of one another. No one was allowed to have a “sacred cow” that could not be evaluated. Emotions were checked at the door so that the conversation could be honest. The evaluation was about the work and not the personalities of those leading it – unless a personality trait got in the way. It was healthy and helpful.
But for the moment, I want to offer three questions that you should ask after every work is completed. Think about these:
Was it a worthy goal? The people in your organization, business, or church are giving their time, energies to the work so asking if it was worth their time is appropriate. But beyond their energies, knowing that this is the work that will make a lasting difference is critical. Sure, there is a place for short-term, quick wins but you cannot base people’s lives or your organization on it.
Did we achieve the goal? Only when you set clear measures at the beginning can you get a clear picture at the end. But even if you did poorly in setting up the goal, you can decide postmortem if you achieved anything. We must have the guts to look around the room at one another and say what was accomplished – or what was not. Sometimes, this is the beautiful time when we realize that something was achieved that was better and unexpected than what we planned.
Could we have used our energies and involved people into a different work with a better goal? In evaluating what we did, we need to ask if we should have even done it. One of my favorite lines from a movie comes from Jurassic Park. In a discussion about the cloning of dinosaurs for the park, Dr. Ian Malcolm said: “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” We need to ensure that what we’ve done is the right, necessary, and proper work to have been done. Not simply the clever work that is possible.
Each of these questions can be personalized to your own work. As one who teaches on Sundays, I evaluate my messages and series in a similar way. I need to ask myself:
Was it a message that revealed the heart of God?
Did the message connect in a transformative way?
Could the message have been delivered differently (outline, style, demeanor, illustrations, etc.) to have lead people in a better direction?
Oftentimes the third question is the most difficult to wrestle. To ask, ” Could we have used our energies and involved people into a different work with a better goal?” means that you must be willing to admit that you were off-course from the beginning. Perhaps ego got in the way or you were just distracted by a new idea. But no matter what the cause, we must have enough integrity to admit when we chose to lead in the wrong direction. It is the only way to then chart a course in the right direction.