A Guide to Good Goals—or At Least Better Ones
You can agree with the idea that you need to know your goal and still be bad at figuring out what the goal is for any given piece of communication. I'm sure of this because I see people communicate with each other in absence of a clear goal all the time, in business and in life. Confusing emails, apparently pointless meetings, myriad social media posts, and misunderstandings between people are all the evidence I need to know that we need to get better at finding the goal before we craft the communication. Last time, I mentioned the Five Whys, where you dig beyond the first goal and ask why repeatedly to get to the meat of it. Not only is this a bit time consuming to do, but let's be real: Humans are lazy creatures, and we love to take the easy way out.
The Five Whys technique may not work for your time frame or your current ability to be really honest, so here's a quick guide to help narrow your goal for even small pieces of communication.
Consider the context
Nothing you say or do exists in a vacuum, so think about what's happening around your piece of communication. That goes for you and your audience, because everyone is bringing their own experience and baggage to the table.
Think long term
Tie your immediate goals to your long-term goals. If what you are doing now doesn't align with your long-term goals, reconsider that short-term goal. If it does align, be sure to make that link clear when you're communicating.
Do it often
As with most things, the more you practice figuring out the goal for your communication, the better you'll get at it. That's part of why I emphasize that every piece of communication has a goal, because it encourages us to examine that goal more often. Sometimes the small goals help you identify the big goals, and sometimes it works the other way around. I'm certain that if we all thought about our goals before every email, phone call, text message, conversation and tweet, the world would be a better place.
Ask for help and feedback
Yes, I am going to go back to the idea that humans are kind of lazy, especially when it comes to creating new habits or changing our behaviour. Having another perspective can be invaluable when we are looking at our goals—though you need to be open someone questioning your motivations and ideas. And yes, this is another time where I'll remind you that I can help you suss out your real goals, so give me a call.
You can also get help through feedback from a trusted source. I've proofread plenty of emails for coworkers and friends, and I've had others do the same for me. Seeking that proactive feedback has saved plenty of us, but if we really want to challenge ourselves (so much for that easy way out, I suppose) we can gather feedback when our communication fails. You can't go back in time, reassess the goal and make the problem disappear, but it can hone the skill for next time.
Now you have the tools, and I don’t want to hear any more excuses for badly planned communication goals. Go forth and make the world a better place full of good communicators with clear goals!