How dare you ask me what I want?
Recently I attended an event with a good friend and fellow creative. As we spoke to the host and creator of the event I ask, "What are you trying to accomplish today?" "What?", she says.
Feeling the sudden tension in the air and having no idea why I tried to rephrase the question. Also, knowing I have a reputation for being frank and that somehow being off putting I try to "casual" it up. "I just mean what are you hoping the people here do?" Nope... more tension... confusion. Crap.
Suddenly the calm vibe of the event, brought on by the bourbon and cigars, was wearing off as I was trying to figure what particular pile I had stepped in. "Um, I just mean what are you hoping they do? Buy a cigar, sign up for something, are you hoping to collect demographics?" After a few more bumbling words and I found myself explaining the only reason I was asking is so perhaps I could post something to support what she was hoping to accomplish.
For the sake of my ego, I will now tell you that I save the conversation and after a little more conversation she made her way to more attendees.
My always supportive Buddy ask, "Why are you always asking people hard questions?" He also gave me the appropriate kudos for just how "cool" I just was.
As I told him, I just don't see that as a hard question. Let me be the first to admit that I, annoyingly so, don't do anything without knowing what it is I hope to accomplish by doing it. I don't even understand the concept that you would do anything without having a why. I think it is impossible to do anything without some expectation of outcome. It is our expectation that drive our actions. Sure some would say sometimes it is "want" that drives action but in every case we are hoping our actions fill that want. But perhaps that is a rant for a separate time.
Bringing it back to this event, the Woman did come back around saying she had thought about it and what she hopes to accomplish is that everyone have a good time. That's not bad goal but I was now seeing this event as an expensive party supplemented by a cover charge and cash bar. not the business venture our host alluded to earlier.
Luckily I listen to the voice in my head yelling, "Don't do it!" and I all I said was something, "Oh, cool." Although I am sure it was delivered a stunningly debonaire way.
What I was dying to talk to her about was... unless you are one of the lucky few rolling in money, I don't think you can "afford" to not have a plan. Why you are doing what you are doing, what you hope to accomplish and how you know if we accomplished it? Call it what you like, expectation, accountability, measures of success, key performance indicators (KPIs).
As someone who struggles with defining my goals and "purpose" I understand it is easier say than done, especially on a larger scale. Along with many other reasons, some of the challenges are,
There is often a conflict between our actual goals and our stated goals. We say we want to "help the community" but what we really want is to find a community that will buy our product. We say we want sell cosmetics but what really want is to be popular on social media.
There is often a fear of failure. If we don't say our goals out loud we are not creating any expectations and we cannot technically fail.
Often people are "too embarrassed" to say what they want out loud. This comes from things like the imposter syndrome or feelings of worthiness.
If also often comes from the fact the people are tyring to dream up these eloborate and grand goals. It does not have to be that you are trying to earn a million bucks or take your company to the Fortune 500 by the end of the year. Don't get me wrong, you should have some sort of long term plan, some sort of true north but that should be something you can speak to already. You should already know what it is you, your company, your group does. And what the things you do along the way should support that true north.
But what bite of the elephant are you taking today? I want to sell fifty cigars. I want to collect 50 more contacts. I want to raise awareness for my company. I want to speak to ten new people today.
If nothing else when a well meaning introverted guest ask what he can do to help it won't get all awkward.