Gala Goal Setting

It’s 5 o’clock and it’s been another mad Monday. I find myself accelerating to the finish line with the seemingly insurmountable task of project planning for the month ahead.

I click on the “GOTG” folder in Outlook and quickly skim through the mountain of emails from the past week. I fly out the door.

Twenty minutes later I am sitting at the pub with a g’n’t in my hand and my notebook ready; waiting for the committee to arrive. It seems fitting that I have a drink after such a long day and in preparation for the long meeting ahead. The committee begin to trail in one-by-one, each hauling the baggage of their respective Mondays through the door. I look around the table. Physiotherapist, Engineer, Postgraduate Student, Investment & Valuations Specialist, Senior Environmental Officer, Marketing Executive & Graphic Designer and Health Economist. What a bunch of brilliance!

Despite being surrounded by a collective of sharp minds, I find that that two hours drags by. Each person providing a detailed account of their attempts at organising vendors and locking in sponsors. I have a moment where I realise that I am surrounded by a group of specialists – each an expert in their own field – yet we have come together to carry out unfamiliar tasks and achieve a very audacious goal! And what’s more, we are spending the better part of our evening in a rather unproductive meeting.

Suddenly, the consultant voice in my head chimes in loud and clear…“you know how to handle this!”

To be continued…

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It is timely that the Left Field team have a strong focus on goal setting this month as I begin the countdown to a very significant and meaningful milestone in my calendar – Gala on the Green (GOTG). This year marks my third year as a committee member of this annual, black tie fundraising event. GOTG is very close to my heart as it raises much needed funds for an incredible local charity, Brisbane Youth Service. Furthermore, it has allowed me to learn from and build friendships with a group wonderful people!

I was also fortunate to be nominated as the committee president for 2015, providing me with an opportunity to lead a group of eight young professionals in planning, organising and hosting one of Brisbane’s premiere charity events with the goal of increasing our fundraising target from $31k to $40k.

I launched into my responsibilities with all of the enthusiasm and vigor of a craft-a-holic with a new scrap-booking project! In the year prior, I introduced the committee to the concepts of Team Management Systems and eagerly began profiling the group to understand the different working styles and personality preferences to better support my leadership of the team. Needless to say, the committee found this occupational hazard/personal quirk rather amusing!

It did not take long, however, for everyday realities to detract me from applying my skills as a consultant psychologist to my role as president of the committee. I soon realised that I was allowing the valuable time we shared as a committee to become stagnant, work in progress meetings, as opposed to opportunities to create energy, motivation and generate new ideas! “Who am I?!”

It wasn’t until I had my ‘aha’ moment during that fateful meeting described earlier that I presented myself with a very clear goal:

To apply my knowledge of high performance teams to motivate my committee to take ownership and feel empowered to deliver an outstanding event that will raise $40k for Brisbane Youth Service.


In addition to setting a bold fundraising target, the committee faces a number of other challenges in achieving success. First and foremost, we are a team of eight professionals who work or study full time, meaning that we need to effectively prioritise our commitments to GOTG. Furthermore, we bring a very eclectic mix of skills, knowledge and attributes to the table, none of which include ‘event management’! Unlike many of the teams I work with as a consultant at Left Field, the committee operates in a very flat structure, meaning there is no clearly defined hierarchy or roles and responsibilities. On top of this, the eight committee members are held personally accountable for everything…there is no ‘next level of management’ to escalate a problem to. Lastly, a defining characteristic of this team is that we are all volunteers. And therefore, unlike all of my Left Field clients, the committee receives no monetary incentives (i.e., a salary) to work hard! In fact, volunteering on this committee typically costs members time and money! This means that the committee needs to be fueled by intrinsic motivation throughout the year.  

Following my ‘aha’ moment described earlier I kicked into gear! I put the following 4 strategies into practice to achieve our shared goal – consider how you might do the same!

  1. Break the routine. Think of a shared problem that your team is facing – it might be something that tends to get them stuck in a rut or one that they continue to overlook. Bring out the coloured pens and post-its! Make use of the last five minutes of your meeting to facilitate a ‘brainswarming’ activity! Present the group with the problem they need to solve and invite them to write down all of their ideas for solving this problem. No matter how farfetched! Collect their ideas and present the themes at the next meeting.
  1. Genuine recognition. To build and maintain a high performance team, you need to foster a culture in which each person feels comfortable delivering and receiving recognition. This also means your role as a leader is to communicate that it is counterproductive for individuals to strive for goals out of ego or competitiveness – being part of a high performing team means that you celebrate others’ successes as this moves the team closer to a common goal. Some leaders experience fear in providing recognition for the accomplishments of a one team member and not others. However, it is important to remember that you are objectively recognising an individual for their contribution and value, rather than 'in comparison' to others. This clearly communicates what type of performance is recognised as high achievement. 
  1. Remember to be human. As a leader, technical expert or veteran of an industry/organisation, it can be easy to forget what it is like to be learning a skill or entering into a new team culture. Take a moment to consider your team’s varying levels of skill and experience. Your team members may really value hearing you clearly communicate that you are accessible for support and guidance. That you will be non-judgmental and open to their questions or request for help. Even the most experienced team members may need to hear this!
  1. Remove the blindfold for pinning the tail on the donkey! Why be subtle!? Why mince your words or use complicated strategic language? Tell them how it is!! You have a team who come to work every day to do a job. As the months roll by, people inevitably begin to lose sight of what they are working towards and how they are adding value. Take the time to clearly articulate the end goal, the gaps that exist between current and desired state, and the progress of the team to date.

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Meeting continued…

The consultant hat was now on and I was in full flight. I opened the next meeting in a rather unorthodox way. I had prepared a very brief and informal, yet well thought out speech.

As a committee we have set a very bold target, which I believe we can achieve! Based on our work to date, our projected profits are approximately $x.00 off target. I want the committee to arrive at the event with absolute confidence that we will achieve our desired target by the end of the night. Recently I have personally shifted my mindset, I am now viewing us as a team in a business with a target to hit and we need all hands on deck to achieve this.

I also want to be clear, that as a veteran of the committee, I feel responsible for providing direction and clarity to the team where possible. I would hope that rather than sitting on something and worrying, you feel comfortable putting your hand up for assistance. We are all accountable for achieving this target and it will feel amazing when we do!

With all this said, whilst we are currently off target by $x.00, this means we have put in a great deal of work to achieve the current projected fundraising amount of $x.00!! To achieve this we have landed some incredible sponsors, prizes and entertainment!

I observed the team around me - some seemed shocked to learn of the current gap in projected fundraising target, others seemed reflective about the progress to date, while others appeared motivated to take action! We now had a clear goal to work towards! 

Following my brief speech, I presented the very first ‘star of the week’ (homemade medal) award to two hardworking quiet achievers. The group burst into laughter, needless to say that those who had remembered my enthusiasm in profiling the team in the early days were not surprised by my new team recognition system!

At the following meeting…we conducted a much faster and snappier work in progress, with a clear focus on critical decisions. Closely followed by the presentation of ‘star of the week’ – this particular "star" responded with an enthusiastic fist pump! Another team member, who had missed the previous meeting, observed with curiosity and then with a smile on his face responded: “well if I had known we were winning awards…!” Minutes later I kicked back into facilitator mode and distributed paper and pens to each team member. I presented them with a problem to solve: “I need you to generate ideas for how we can bridge the gap between our current projected profits and our desired target. Anything goes!”

In my opinion this had been one of the most productive and energising meetings to date. Not only did we manage to cover off on all critical matters within the hour, the team also generated a range of excellent out-of-the box ideas for overcoming our current dilemma. I received emails from committee members sharing positive feedback in the days following the meeting.

What I learnt from this experience is that it only takes a few deliberate changes to the way in which you lead your team, or facilitate team processes, to have a meaningful impact. Moreover, to truly foster a culture of high performance you require a team whose personal motivation aligns with their role, the team and the vision! It goes without saying that I feel very fortunate and inspired to be working with a group of eight young professionals who volunteer their time for this wonderful event. 

~Jessica Fraser, Senior Consultant Psychologist