The Importance of Setting Goals

Bob Borson —  April 12, 2010 — 14 Comments

 

Great Wall of China

I was having lunch with a friend of mine on Friday and we had a conversation that I thought would be a good topic for my blog: The importance of setting goals. There are a lot of talented and capable people out there that would be in far better off positions had they set goals and made their important life decisions based on achieving those goals rather than moving through their daily lives rudderless (even if they didn’t know it at the time).

I feel I am suited to speak on this topic because I am a walking case study in the results of not setting goals and the beneficiary of setting goals. I don’t use my blog for dishing out unsolicited advice too often so I hope you will indulge me on this. I am going to break this down into 3 sections and I will relate it my field (architecture) – but it works across any professional discipline.

Task Oriented Individual

The task oriented person generally has lower level responsibilities. They are given a specific task to do and that’s the extent of their responsibility. This does not mean that the task is simple or not important; it just means that the extent of responsibility is limited to accomplishing a part of the whole. In my field, some examples of tasks might be to draw the interior elevations, or dimension the floor plan, or fill out the window schedule. These are specific tasks that do not extend the responsibility upward.

Objectives/ Results Oriented Individual

The results oriented person has more responsibility than the task oriented person because they are in charge of achieving a set result and have the responsibility of determining how to get there. That means they are in charge of the tasks and the tasks oriented individuals. These are the project managers who are told the goal, “this project needs to be released for permitting in 6 weeks”. The project managers then go about the process of breaking the goal into tasks that can be distributed among team members. This group is good at executing a plan to achieve the objective.

Goal Oriented Individual

The goal oriented individual does not get distracted by the process but rather stays focused on the big picture – the goal. Determining the big picture is what the best leaders do but you have to go through the process of collecting the skills and abilities to effectively lead. You need to understand the tasks, how they come together in a plan that fulfills the objective, and how all the objectives together achieve a goal. There aren’t any shortcuts, you may have the ability to move through these categories more quickly than others, but make no mistake, you do need to go through the process. Everyone has experienced the boss who micro-manages things – is this ever brought up as a positive trait?

Finally, and here’s the rub for me when interfacing with people who are in leadership roles who don’t have the experience to be leaders; just because you want to be the leader (goal oriented individual), and think that you are the boss (goal oriented individual), this does not make you the leader. It takes time, you have to earn it, and you have to be recognized by your peers as someone who is capable of being the leader and the one determining the big picture. But that shouldn’t stop you from setting goals – otherwise how do you measure your course and development? You set goals to help chart you through the growth and development process. If your goal is to become a partner in your firm, are your current responsibilities pointing you in the right direction? If you work for a small firm and the only way you are going to become a partner is if someone dies, when do you determine it’s time to leave?

Goals can help you achieve many things by focusing your energies toward the objective. I decided that I wanted to become a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) so I went in to my local chapter, had a conversation with the executive director to find out what type of things I would need to do in order to accomplish this goal. This process put me on the path where I started off participating on a committee, and then the next year I chaired that committee, always escalating the responsibilities of my role. I chaired the Dallas Chapter’s Gala event – the chapters largest and most high profile fund-raising event where we set a new record high for the total amount of money ever raised. The next committee I was a part of was a committee of two where we helped prepare the governance for the new Dallas Center for Architecture (DCFA) which involved identifying and establishing a dialogue with the outside groups that would participate in the center, and determining that a full time program director for the DCFA was needed. The following year I chaired the AIA’s home tour committee – the chapter’s largest public outreach effort. Only in its third year, we were able to build upon the previous years’ momentum and increase the total number of visitors to the event while spending less money.

For my efforts, I was presented with the AIA’s Young Architect of the Year award – something that I am proud of receiving because it is an award presented to me from within my peer group. The next steps to my goal involve participating on a state level and then on a national level. By having a goal, the number of decisions to make is reduced and my energies are focused.

You can look at the procession of events that I just described and see how an established goal (become FAIA) was broken down into objectives (participate in the AIA at the Local, State, and National levels) and then tasks (participate and chair certain committee’s). I established this goal about 5 years ago and the process of achieving this goal has shaped several important decisions for me.

  • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

    Technically speaking, I don’t have a 10 gallon hat – but I would get one and trade it with you!

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  • http://profiles.google.com/jennifer.wright888 Jennifer Wright

    Why was becoming a FAIA important to you?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      It was one way of measuring my impact in the profession – recognition by one’s peers.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      It was one way of measuring my impact in the profession – recognition by one’s peers.

  • http://blogverdadeverdadeira.blogspot.com/ Débora

    Great post!
    As I´m looking for my first job, setting goals is crucial! And making a good plan (the steps) makes everything a lot easier… :)

  • http://blogverdadeverdadeira.blogspot.com/ Débora

    Great post!
    As I´m looking for my first job, setting goals is crucial! And making a good plan (the steps) makes everything a lot easier… :)

  • http://www.abadiaccess.com Marcy

    I remember being in a firm that wanted to skip steps. They hired me as project architect and thrusted me onto the Project manager role, a month into the project. My team did not have confidence in my ability or knowledge (as I didn’t have much of it in that case) and it was a disaster. I have good PM and “leadership” skills but like you say, it has to be earned and come from having experience.
    Good stuff!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Sometimes you get hired specifically to come into the situation Marcy is describing and be the heavy. It’s rough on everyone but if you have the skills (and the time) people will learn to listen to you. The job I am at now I was hired into this position after what the survivors called “Black Friday” – when half of the staff was let go because they hadn’t grown into the roles they needed to. I came in and started changing how we draw, our standards, how information was presented and it was really rough for about 6 months. Now, despite my terrible demeanor and sometimes abrasive methodologies, at the latest firm retreat a trait that showed up in almost everyone of my anonymous peer reviews said that I was a patient teacher. (However, they also said that I was a great bullshi**er so maybe I should reevaluate things…)

  • http://www.abadiaccess.com/ Marcy

    I remember being in a firm that wanted to skip steps. They hired me as project architect and thrusted me onto the Project manager role, a month into the project. My team did not have confidence in my ability or knowledge (as I didn’t have much of it in that case) and it was a disaster. I have good PM and “leadership” skills but like you say, it has to be earned and come from having experience.
    Good stuff!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/ Bob Borson

      Sometimes you get hired specifically to come into the situation Marcy is describing and be the heavy. It’s rough on everyone but if you have the skills (and the time) people will learn to listen to you. The job I am at now I was hired into this position after what the survivors called “Black Friday” – when half of the staff was let go because they hadn’t grown into the roles they needed to. I came in and started changing how we draw, our standards, how information was presented and it was really rough for about 6 months. Now, despite my terrible demeanor and sometimes abrasive methodologies, at the latest firm retreat a trait that showed up in almost everyone of my anonymous peer reviews said that I was a patient teacher. (However, they also said that I was a great bullshi**er so maybe I should reevaluate things…)

  • http://www.concretedetail.com/blog Rich Holschuh

    Bob – No indulgences needed for your candor and willingness to share “unsolicited advice”. These are realities that we all need to face (and of which we need to be reminded) if we are to grow. Healthy growth, not relentless megalomaniacal growth.
    As an owner/leader at a small business with big ideas, it is very hard to juggle the daily details and nitpicky minutiae while keeping those long-range and all-too-necessary goals in the forefront of The List. There are better days and not-so-better days, but as long as some progress is made, it makes the process worthwhile. Hearing the story from another’s viewpoint is always reaffirming and encouraging. So thanks again!

  • http://www.concretedetail.com/blog Rich Holschuh

    Bob – No indulgences needed for your candor and willingness to share “unsolicited advice”. These are realities that we all need to face (and of which we need to be reminded) if we are to grow. Healthy growth, not relentless megalomaniacal growth.
    As an owner/leader at a small business with big ideas, it is very hard to juggle the daily details and nitpicky minutiae while keeping those long-range and all-too-necessary goals in the forefront of The List. There are better days and not-so-better days, but as long as some progress is made, it makes the process worthwhile. Hearing the story from another’s viewpoint is always reaffirming and encouraging. So thanks again!