How Goals Differ From Purpose

DartsA bus driver was having a hard day. No matter how quickly he drove between bus stops, he simply couldn’t keep to the timetable his bosses had demanded. He came back to the depot with a look of frustration and a feeling of anger.

His boss approached him and asked if all was OK. The bus driver replied, “No, it’s not. How on earth do you expect me to keep to the timetable, if I have to keep picking up passengers?!”

This is obviously a case of a confusion between company goals and company purpose!

I often ask on programs we run ‘What’s your purpose at work?’

To show there is sometimes confusion between purpose and goals, many answers come back that state hitting objectives or targets is ‘what we are here to do’. In other words, they say that their whole reason for working is to hit a goal or goals, or to achieve an objective.

A dictionary definition of ‘purpose’ states “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.”

The same dictionary defines ‘goal’ as “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.”

So, the main difference revolves around the ‘what’ and the ‘why’.

Very often, we will direct someone to carry out a task (the goal) without giving adequate backing to the purpose of the goal (what it will achieve and why it will be beneficial to achieve it).

Jim Rohn once said, ‘If you have a big enough ‘why’ you can achieve any ‘how’.

I take that to mean if we have a clearly defined reason to do something that appeals to our intrinsic motivations, we will find the best way to achieve it.

Next time you ask someone to achieve a goal, ensure they are fully aware of the reasons why the goal is so necessary. That way, they will ‘buy-in’ to the goal, because they recognise the purpose it will serve in achieving it. And you’ll not only get understanding as to why it should be achieved, you’ll also get commitment to achieve it.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training | Management Blog | Image courtesy by Danilo Rizzuti of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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