With the ChatGPT revolution upon us, many business leaders have been wondering if there can be a productive application of AI (artificial intelligence) within their business.
Sure, AI can help students plagiarize an essay into a good grade,
but can it help companies increase their teams’ productivity?
One option that my team at Ambition In Motion has been testing is
integrating AI into our goal setting system via our AIM Insights program.
Here’s how it works. Every month we ask the direct reports of a
leader to input their goals. We ask direct reports to determine their own goals
(as opposed to the manager) because research shows that people who set their
own goals are much more likely to achieve them.
This has been a great system so far, but one challenge is that not
every employee is adept at consistently setting SMART (Specific, Measurable,
Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals. The issue is that while most
people can understand the idea of a SMART goal, it takes practice to get
comfortable setting and achieving SMART goals each month.
Some managers believe that their employees are incapable of
setting SMART goals. In those cases, those managers are likely micromanaging
and haven’t figured out how to find a balance between their perfectionist
ideals and the practical reality. People are more than just automatons, and
that kind of treatment builds resentment and enables reactive behavior instead
of proactive behavior.
Employees that can independently set their own SMART goals have a
massive ripple effect on the entire company. When employees set their own SMART
goals, their leader trusts them and doesn’t need to be constantly looking over
their shoulder to make sure they are on track.
When leaders aren’t constantly looking over their direct reports’ shoulders,
they can effectively lead more people and focus on tasks that can have a
multiplying effect on the business.
Lastly, both leaders and employees can achieve greater balance
with their work. As opposed to checking, re-checking, and re-checking again a
direct report’s work, the time both leaders and employees are working can be
effectively utilized and allow them to stop working at reasonable hours.
How do we get to a point where employees are autonomously setting
their own SMART goals?
When a manager sets goals with their direct reports, the manager
thinks that their direct reports are fully participating in the goal-setting
process but in reality, that manager is setting the goals for their direct
reports. Essentially, those managers are enabling their direct reports to not
think for themselves and come up with their own goals and instead tell them
what they want them to do.
This is micromanagement.
The best leaders share an objective that their team needs to
achieve and the key results that they believe it takes to achieve that outcome.
They then empower their direct reports to achieve those key results in whatever
fashion they deem fit. Remember, you are paying these people for their skills
and expertise: learn to trust their instincts.
This leadership style works when direct reports know how to
effectively set SMART goals. It falls flat when employees don’t know how to set
The reason why AI can be so powerful in this process is the
immediacy of the feedback.
Behavior change and positive habit formation occur when one’s
pattern is disrupted and the feedback they receive is immediate.
Leaders could make themselves available immediately after a direct
report has set their goals to share their feedback on whether the goal is SMART
or not, but that is incredibly time-intensive and not conducive to the leader
achieving their own tasks that they need to focus on. There is interesting
research from Cal Newport on the mental residue people build when they switch
tasks throughout the day. If a leader were to take this route and make
themselves available every time an employee sets a new goal, they would be
constantly switching tasks, building mental residue, and diminishing their own
Essentially, leaders are busy and there needs to be a better way
for employees to get immediate feedback on their goals.
AI changes all of that with the immediacy of feedback. In our AIM
Insights program, when employees set goals every month, our AI integration
gives those employees immediate feedback as to whether or not their goal is
SMART. If it is SMART, AIM Insights gives immediate positive reinforcement to
employees that their goal is SMART. If it is not SMART, AIM Insights gives
employees suggestions on how they can re-write that goal as a SMART goal.
This AI integration into AIM Insights has increased the number of
SMART goals set by employees, their ability to autonomously set SMART goals on
their own, and subsequently, those employees’ and leaders’ productivity.
The ripple effect ramifications from this type of innovation can
be huge for the productivity of teams. Sure, employees will be more productive
in less time worked, but they will also be more resilient.
Employees (and really everyone) tend to be resistant to change, so
when a company pivots their business model or the way they work, there is
always some amount of resistance that is met with the proposed change.
When the process in which employees set goals doesn’t change, only
the objective, they are more likely to embrace the change in direction because
the way in which they set goals and achieve key results doesn’t change. The way
in which they work doesn’t materially change, only the objective and key results.
This makes for a more resilient team and that’s able to adapt to change.
This can positively affect the way in which companies integrate
people and strategies during mergers and acquisitions, enter new business
opportunities and markets, succession plan and promote people, and any other
action that might disrupt the way in which employees currently work.
Companies and leaders that can quickly adopt AI into productive
applications will give themselves a major boost into the future.