How good leaders set goals

The idea that in planning, questions are more powerful than statements, upsets the mindsets of a whole genre of leaders. These are the ones who believe that goal statements are responsible for achievements. Their narrative is simple: we're here because we set goals and achieved them. The suggestion that questions have more power makes them anxious, often when forming good questions is not particularly one of their strengths.

Reality is, goals can raise all kinds of questions in the minds of those assigned to them and those questions move people toward progress and achievements. As much as leaders can obsess over languaging goal statements, people get things done not because their leaders get goal statements right but because they get the whole unfolding of subsequent questions right.

People who cannot translate goal statements into good questions deliver excuses instead. With the exception of higher achievers, goal statements evoke self-doubt and distraction. Good questions on the other hand invoke more wonder than worry.

Good leaders accelerate the process by co-crafting good questions from goal statements with their teams in the first place. They make sure everyone is working from questions that are both good and are well-timed. Good questions make us mindful and engaged. They create the kind of curiosity that energizes, focuses, inspires and aligns us more than any planning statements can.