Aligning goals

Every person in this world sees life centered around him/herself. I experience the world with my own senses and naturally I will be my highest priority, my plans in life are the most important ones. I realized when I moved back to Sweden recently that summer was approaching and that soon, the office will be empty. So I hurried to get as much done as I could (I needed input from several persons) before everyone left for vacation. But I soon realized that everyone else was doing the same thing and people were preparing to finalize what they were already working on rather than starting anything new. Naturally, people feel fulfillment and satisfaction when they achieve their own set goals and thus I started to feel a bit frustrated when I realized I would end up in an empty office during summer without being able to achieve much. So I spoke to my manager and we agreed that I would come to Dubai for a week or two to work from here since they don’t take summer vacation in the same extent as in Sweden. So here I am, in my hotel room on a Friday morning (it’s a weekend day), feeling much better than I have done in months after a week of good work and an active social life.

It reminds me when one of my wise ex managers once told me; “Maha, you must understand that not everyone has the same priorities as you have, don’t expect your plan to be everyone else’s”. It hit me as a brutal truth that I never really reflected about earlier. I had called a group of five people for a very important meeting (at least it was a high priority for me!) and NO one showed up. I was surprised, disappointed and angry. My manger looked at me when I came back and asked if the meeting was already over? I said no, there was no meeting. He saw my frustration and took me aside and we had a really good philosophical discussion about it. Every situation in life is more or less complex, with several dependencies, people with different cultural backgrounds, interests and priorities etc so it’s hard to predict in advance how things will turn out. I learned something very important that day. Not that I now have a clear strategy for how to avoid this in the future, but I do know that people are human beings, they see the world centered around themselves just like I do and they try their best to prioritize, support others and achieve as much as they can. So I need to make sure that my goals are aligned with those of the people I’m dependent on in my work.

Yesterday, we had a session in the office about how to behave during Ramadan. Today, the Muslim world started a period of fasting lasting for one month. The purpose behind this is indeed very nice and generous; you don’t eat and drink (during day time) in order to feel how poor people in other parts of the world are suffering. The idea is that, once you have been through this month, you will give away a part of your fortune to those who are less fortunate in life. Also, it’s not only about food and drinks; you shouldn’t lie, you should behave correctly and as nicely as you can towards others etc. Of course this should always be the case, but there is special focus on it during this holy period of Ramadan. So, out of respect for others, those who are not fasting shouldn’t eat and drink in public spaces for instance. Office hours will be reduced to 6 hours a day (9-15) and we were told to try to book meetings before 13 when possible, since after that, people will not be able to concentrate as efficiently. I’m sure some people in the meeting started to feel uneasy about this… “how will I finish all my meetings in 3 hours! We have a lot of escalations and operational problems that we need to solve, we don’t have time for this now…!”. Every additional person and every dependency adds to the complexity of the situation and we need to be aware of that and give it the respect it needs.

The single most important task of the leaders of a company is to set an inspiring vision and clear strategies and goals to align all the employees in the organization to walk the same path and reach the same goals. This can be done more or less efficiently and will be a clear differentiator in especially knowledge-intense organizations. This is why good leadership is so important; it can make or break an organization. With the increased competition in the market place, efficiency is becoming ever more important and it requires focus and dedication from every person in the company.

How come we normally don’t reflect much over this? Hopefully because it naturally works quite well – hopefully you work in a company with great leaders who continuously convince you why you should prioritize your goals in a certain order. And hopefully, in your private life, you are surrounded by people who either have the same visions or ambitions as you have and spur you when you start loosing track or people who are completely different but contribute to your own self-fulfillment by giving you the energy needed to achieve your goals or by inspiring you to think differently and challenge your limits. I am blessed to be surrounded by great people both in my professional and in my private life. You will for sure fall into this priority conflict situations many times in your life anyway, but don’t despair – try to reflect about it in a positive way and this will add to your experience and personal development, just like every other challenge we encounter.

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