All organizations have goals, no matter what the size. Sometimes they’re clear, sometimes not.

But when the organization gets large, the employees rarely find the goals to be motivating. Instead, they often revert to the lowest common denominator: What do I have to do to keep my job?

This drives leaders nuts.

I see two main problems with large organizational goals.

Problem 1:

When you’re trying to capture the overall picture for 1,000 people, or 10,000, your goals are very broad and comprehensive. You have to sum everything up in terms of profit and loss, market share, and other broad measures.

It’s extremely hard for the individual worker to relate to this! Sure, I kinda know how profit works, but my own contribution is an absolutely minuscule part of the picture. Whether I do a good job or bad, it really doesn’t make much of a difference.

And these terms are couched in the way managers think. Managers spend a lot of time in financials, industry reports, and legal tanglings. It’s a different language, and there are many concepts that don’t translate well to the individual. I don’t think of my bank account in terms of revenue, profit and such; instead, I worry about how much money I have available. And market share would be a weird concept to apply to me and my family.

Problem 2:

Managers think their job is to tell employees what to do. That’s part of it, of course, but not the most important part.

More critical is to have the conversations about WHY things are the way they are. Not just telling people our mission, but creating a space for honest and deep questions about that.

This is so crucial because that’s what builds deep understanding and buy-in. I need to understand what’s in your head, how you arrived at that decision, and be able to get your opinion about why I should care.

Otherwise, I’ll just worry about keeping my job.