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3 Simple Steps to Avoid the Biggest Goal-Setting Mistake for Teams and Leaders


How to Work With the Emotions, Not Against Them

The film Inception turns 10 years old this July, which feels like a relativistic impossibility to me.

In the movie, Leonardo DeCaprio plays a world-class thief that leads a team of rogues in a series of highly skilled heists.  Instead of stealing valuables, DeCaprio and his team steal ideas.  The goal of the main job in the movie is to enter the dream of a young executive, infiltrate his emotional core, and leave an idea that will convince him to dissolve and liquidate his company.  The thieves accomplish this by tying the idea to the powerful emotions the young exec feels about his recently deceased father.

The reason why I liked Inception was because at the heart of the movie there’s a valuable truth.  We’re much more likely to internalize something if we associate it as coming from strong personal emotions.  We like to pretend that we’re logical decision makers, but despite all of our rationalism, we’re incapable of removing all emotion from our decisions.  

Because of this, it’s important to craft your company’s goals with emotional responses in mind.  Even better, it’s ideal if you can create the emotional framework around which your goal will be internalized.  So how do you generate emotions like these in your organizational goals?

1. What Matters to Your Employees?

Knowing what matters to your employees is crucial to creating an emotional framework that they will internalize.  For example, if most of your employees are teenagers, creating an emotional framework centered around providing for dependent family members will probably prove ineffective.

But even beyond that, people get jobs because they need money, but they start careers for something more.  Tapping into those kinds of emotions (your employees’ desires for success, what a successful career means to your employees) and connecting them to your company-wide goals will be a more powerful emotional motivator than simply “making more money.”

2. What Does Achieving that Goal Feel Like?

Where are you when you achieve the goal? Where does that final interaction take place?  What does it feel like? Is it a high five and a pat on the back from your team members? What does it sound like? Is it your boss giving you a raise?

In addition to when you achieve, what does it feel like to achieve that goal?  Where is the struggle in the process? What is difficult for your employees?  Where does the heavy lifting happen?  Understanding these efforts and rewards can help you to frame the emotions behind your goals with these moments in mind.

3. How Does Achieving This Goal Benefit Your Employees?

Inception works as a metaphor only if you don’t take on the role of world-class dream thief.  For one, that role doesn’t actually exist (no matter how much I want it to).  Also, you’re a leader to your employees and fellow team members, not an under-the-table criminal-for-hire hellbent on manipulating their sincerest, most vulnerable emotions.

It’s important to thoughtfully consider how achieving your company-wide goals benefits your employees.  While creating your company-wide goals, make sure you understand where your employees values fit into your plans before setting them in motion.  That way, your goals will reflect not only what you need to succeed, but also what your employees value.

Recognize that humans are emotional beings and that our goals need to reflect that.  Trying to get people to value things they don’t through deception is as difficult as it is unethical, and that’s probably understating it.

Creating an emotional backdrop for your goals isn’t manipulative, it’s how you succeed.  It’s how you develop powerful desires for what you want in the future.  It’s how you overcome difficult situations with a positive attitude.  It’s how you look forward to the fruits of your efforts.

Griffin Hill is a leadership coaching organization led and founded by Scott Baird, life-long leader and human and organizational performance scientist.   Click the link below to start achieving your goals with the strategies above and more.



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