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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Today’s Friday Fun Fact

Last week I briefly touched upon my perspective on goal setting. While they have been universally considered a magic bullet for success both personally and professionally, goals are not without their downsides.

Interestingly, the way in which you frame your goals can have a significant impact on your relationships.

This, according to the authors of a paper published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science that focused on whether people are open and straightforward when working with others.

The study noted that people who establish goals to improve themselves (“self-improvement goals”), like getting better grades, increasing sales numbers or nailing a perfect “10”, tend to be more cooperative in nature.

Whereas people who set goals that will enable them to perform better than others (“performance goals”) such as becoming Valedictorian or completing a task more quickly than a fellow co-worker, have more of a tendency to be “deceitful and less likely to share information with coworkers. The reason for this is fairly obvious – when you want to outperform others, it doesn’t make sense to be honest about information.”

The study suggests that those with self-improvement goals on the other hand tend to be quite open. “If the ultimate goal is to improve yourself, one way to do it is to be very cooperative with other people…(however) they’re not really altruists, per se. They see the social exchange as a means toward the ends of self-improvement.”

Other research shows that those with self-improvement goals are also more open to hearing different perspectives, while those with performance goals “would rather just say, ‘I’m just right and you are wrong.'”

According to the authors, both types of goal setting can be effective. However, their findings suggest that helping individuals frame their goals to focus on self-improvement instead of performance may foster a better overall team environment.

From my perspective, performance goals can be extremely useful for creating a powerful team when the objective is to be better than external competition.

Regardless, a good balance of goals creates a high-performance environment that also fosters collaboration. The key, as I have discussed before, is to not hyper-focus on the goal to the point where you miss the bigger picture and bigger opportunities.

P.S. For more on my goal-setting perspective, read Goal-Free Living.

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