Managing individual and collective goals

I often say that we are social animals and need to connect and work with others to feel fulfilled. We have an inherent drive to communicate, to connect, to work and to share with others, to offer something of value, to make a positive contribution to society. This probably explains why solitary confinement has been used as one of the worst forms of punishment.

Societies and organizations are necessary to help us live together and work together towards common goals

But, we also have our own, individual goals that we privately aspire for. When individual goals diverge and come into conflict with those of the organization, a lot of friction is created.

The big challenge that we as individuals, and every society or organization as a whole faces, is how to conciliate these disparate goals. How to respect both. How to let both flourish and be attended to properly.

What causes these differences?

I think, this difference in goals happens largely because most goals, both individual and collective, are formed out of fear and greed.

So many people do certain jobs because they are considered ‘safe’ or because ‘they earn well’. These people are looking for their own safety and comfort, and have only selfish and self centered goals. They have little time or inclination to think of the collective. They will come into conflict with other people of their type(who are pursuing their own selfish goals) and also with those who are genuinely enthusiastic about their work(since enthusiastic people will also be working towards collective benefit, apart from their own goals).

Over time, such people will increasingly develop a feeling of meaninglessness and bitterness for their work, since they never really enjoyed it or had an aptitude for it. Such unenthusiastic and bitter employees are as much a problem for organizations as they are for themselves.

Similarly, when organizations create their work culture based on fear and greed, a lot of friction is generated. When organizations believe that employees can not be self motivated and need to be constantly pushed, friction is created. When they believe the only way for the organization to work well is by recruiting and retaining as many ‘obedient'(read scared) employees as possible and getting them to act like robots, just following organization made rules and structures, friction is created. When the leaders themselves are driven by fear and greed, rather than an enthusiasm for what they are doing, friction in goals is created.

I am sure there are individuals and organizations that strive seriously towards creating a positive work relationship. For those who haven’t done so, these differences can be overcome by cultivating the right attitude individually and cultivating the right culture at an organization level.

Here is what I think can be help.

At the individual level

An individual’s task is to connect with his/her Inner Voice. See where it wants to lead them. For this, one needs to let go of fear and greed, and allow their hearts to help them find their purpose. Then they need to see which groups and organizations will help them towards it.

When a person does what he/she feels enthusiastic about, the urge to connect and work with others comes to the fore. There is more of a craving to share and enjoy, than to hoard and safe guard.

At the organization level

An organization starts with certain goals. Some people come together with a shared vision and start it. To stay on track, it is imperative that they choose the right people to join them and work with them.

Having said that, human beings are too complex to be just expected to act according to what one anticipates of them. People have their own goals and aspirations. they also have their own growth curves. So, the organization can do its best with recruitment, but, once the member are recruited, it has to be ready to try new directions based on how the collective culture develops. Of course you started it. But once others join in, you cannot expect them to forever work and think the same way you want them, you cannot expect them to have the same goals and aspirations as you have.

An example that comes to mind is that of Steve Jobs, who had to leave the very company that he started because the vision of the majority of board members diverged from his own vision. But he did well once he left. If you listen to what he says of the incident during his famous Stanford address, he has only positive things to say. It brought him back closer to his heart. Once he let go, all the energies that were being spent in holding on, became available for doing things he loved doing. He did well again and found more fulfillment. The fact that he later joined back Apple is of little importance to me. The big thing was letting go, following his heart and finding his happiness back.

What matters most, I think, is connection. Deep understanding and connection with the members. Treating them as thinking, aspiring, respectable human beings. What works is not only trying to make them learn and understand, but also being ready to learn from them. Not only changing but allowing yourself to be changed too.

It will a unique mix of holding on and letting go that only your heart can best lead you on.


A lot of organizations start with the premise that they have to hold back their employees at any cost. For motivation, they make use of scaring them(market is bad, jobs outside are not secure), addressing their greed(foreign assignment, raised salary, better titles). But I say, it is better to let go of this idea and just focus on understanding what individual employees will be most happy with, what will best align with their purpose, and edging them on towards that. If this means letting go of certain employees, so be it. Instead of seeing this as some loss, I see this as a win-win situation.

When you try to hold on to your employees and dictate how they act according to your own vision and goals, you create a negative environment for your self to manage. People are not happy, unenthusiastic and not focused on growth and learning. You create a situation where you have to keep making lots of efforts to make even the smallest things happen. You have to continuously prod, scare, satisfy greed etc to make things work.

On the other hand, if you let go of the urge to control and collaborate with your people a win win situation is created. Though some people might leave, the ones remaining will be the ones who are enthusiastic about their work. And when groups consist of enthusiastic, self motivated employees, magic is created, miracles are performed. They don’t need to be prodded, they work on their own. They themselves will take on responsibility and perform beyond expectations. They will pull in others like themselves too.

The ones who leave will be thankful to your for edging them in the right direction. They will see the honesty in your efforts and will push others, who might fit in your organization, to you.

Motivating by example

Motivation seems to happen best by example. When the manager is happy and enthusistic about his work, he, without saying a word, motivates all around him to be the same. People take on the good vibes by themselves.

Believe in their own power to change their life, to do miracles. You act just like a friend, raising good questions, maybe making them face the uncomfortable questions they are avoiding and that are holding them back, maybe giving them a friendly shove in a good direction that they have been ignoring.

When you treat employees as people who can think well, who are honest, sincere, capable, it is reflected in their work. When you make space for them to work on what excites them, and then let them do it without much fuss, you will find them doing it sincerely and better than anything they had done before. They won’t require constant monitoring.

Image: jscreationzs


  • February 4, 2012 - 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Great Post Rahul,

    I feel organizations will surely benefit from your motivational and practical advice. Try collaborating with them.

    Apart, it was great to meet you in person here at Bangalore :-)
    Naveen Kulkarni recently posted..First Impression Is The Last Impression – Why This Is a Plain Myth

    • Rahul
      February 8, 2012 - 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Glad you like it Naveen.
      It was nice to meet you too. :)

  • March 16, 2012 - 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I would like to extend my thanks on sharing this article it is very informative and helpful. I am very glad thayou have post it and share it.
    mylatiu recently posted..armed security guard

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