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Scientific Newsletter #8

The Science Behind Goal Setting

Again this week, I thank you for being here. I’ve an important question for you!

In your business, should you set short-term, medium, or long-term goals for your employees? There’s a lot of science on this topic and I’m sure you’ll be surprised today! Choosing the right time frame for goals can motivate employees and keep the company healthy and performing well.

Imagine an employee has a very long-term goal. She probably won’t be able to see the short-term benefits and will be demotivated because it takes a lot of time to reach the goal and its benefits. On the other hand, if the reward is constant, the person will lose interest because she would normalize it, and her brain won’t be releasing as much dopamine every time she reaches the goal (yes! your brain releases this happiness hormone every time you reach a goal!).

As you can see, it all starts with your brain and how people perceive the consequences of their present actions. 

In science, this is called Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC). It’s defined as the extent to which people consider the impact of their actions on the future consequences of their behavior. 

Those who’ve a high CFC index are more likely to think about the future consequences of their current behavior. Those who’ve a low CFC score are more likely to focus on satisfying their immediate needs.

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The CFC isn’t the same at every age. If you’re a teenager, your brain doesn’t weigh the consequences of your current actions in the same way if they’re more than 2 weeks away. This means that if you tell a teenager not to do something or that you’ll reprimand them in a month or two, they’ll probably ignore you and keep doing it.

In children, the window between action and consequence is even smaller, 1 to 3 days depending on age. In adults, it’s longer. We can feel stronger the consequences of an action when they’re up to 8 weeks away from the current moment (*). 

If you delay the reward or disciplinary action beyond 8 weeks, it will be too far away and will weaken the impact on behaviors.

Of course, not everyone is the same, but if the person is also hyperactive, that threshold is even lower (about 1 week). So a hyperactive employee needs to set short-term goals. Now you understand why a hyperactive person like me or some of your friends put everything off until the last minute.

We also know that there’s a correlation between the level of psychological safety and how the consequences of the current behaviors are perceived. The more unsafe a person feels in the company, the shorter the reward has to be set in order to motivate them.

As you can see, we’re talking science here, and a change as small as adjusting the timeframe of goals can have a big impact. Adjusting the time frame for goals can also accelerate change and impact your company’s adaptability and enterprise agility.

At Enterprise Agility University, one of the things we recommend to leaders and managers is to constantly assess their employees and their environment to know what is the right amount of time for the goals. In this way, they can better influence and mobilize their individuals towards a common goal.

I want to thank Dr. Russell Barkley (brain scientist) for the data that backs all of this up.

If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to contact any of the Enterprise Agility University Trainers around the world. We cover this topic in the second course of our M-Leadership Framework, and they will be happy to help you!

If you want to learn more about the M-Leadership Program, you can check it out here.

New Enterprise Agility Glossary

We have been working over the last few weeks on our glossary of change models, frameworks, and practices that we have developed in recent times. 

This reflects our vision of where the organizational change industry should go in the coming years, as well as new organizational models that we make available to companies around the world.

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You can visit it here. There are over 40 new models that can help you accelerate sustainable change in your organization.

Our Coming Courses from the Enterprise Agility University

For many of you, the beginning of the year is planning for the next few months in terms of careers and courses. We’re pleased to announce that in January we’ll continue our Certified Change Consultant courses in various parts of the world. If you’re in a time zone near the Trainers, we invite you to connect with them and give your career in organizational change a boost with the coming remote Training.

Sandip Rananavare (Australia), LAST PLACES!, English

Issame El-kharbili, (Europe)

From Enterprise Agility University, we hope you found our scientific newsletter useful, and we’ll see you next week.

(*) Fingerman, K. L. & Perlmutter, M. 91994). Future time perspective and life events across adulthood. Journal of General Psychology, 122, 95-111.

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