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How Goals manage…

by | Jan 5, 2021 | Goals, manage, Styx

At the end of the day, Goals are made for management.  This is why I find it fascinating that so few managers actually use them in a consistent way – for the teams or more surprisingly, for themselves.  And I was no different – I headed into corporate America out of college to be ‘successful’.  I had worked through college and had 4 different roles there in 5 years, and realized that Texas Instruments was “not well managed” and so headed into IBM to run headlong into that buzz saw… and now faced with the same, leaving Fannie, you would think that I would either adjust my Goals, or start to connect the dots differently.  But you know I am thick-headed by now… 

The boss I was following was a car guy, and drove a “vintage” 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV.  If you are a car guy, you will know the car, and his … needed some work 😉  But he didn’t care – he drove it daily to and from the office when we worked together at Fannie.  And many lunches were spent driving more than eating.  For him, it was a tangible Goal he achieved…a reason to put up with all the crazy meetings and other silliness that comes from leadership…  The smile on his face when he talked about the car was palpable, and was contagious… 

Styx was formed in 1961 in the Roseland area of the city – near O’Hare if you are familiar with that part of the city.  It was started by Dennis DeYoung at 15, and he enlisted the Panozzo brothers, and eventually 2 guitar players.  They went through different names and bounced around the city, eventually going to Chicago State College to become teachers.  When management signed them to Wooden Nickel in 1972 they had to pick a name – and Styx – yes of “the river of..” – was picked because it was the only one that no one hated… And fit their Goal of focusing on Progressive Rock that was becoming hot…  

Goals or no goals, we would never have heard of Styx if it had not been for Jim Davis, a DJ for WLS radio in Chicago.  Loyal to bands from the area, he had probably heard of Styx, but they had put out 4 albums on a mid-western label (Wooden Nickel) with no real hits.  In spite of that, they were signed to A&M records, which caught his eye.  He was at a pizza place (of course being Chicago…) on the north side (important if you are from there) and saw a cut from their second album on the jukebox, and played it… and wondered – “Why was this never played???” Management still had control over the playlist (Goals), so he had to convince them to let him play it on his Saturday night show… 

… and for those of you under 40, this was when AM was still THE dominant form of “streaming”.  And it was in the era of clear channel stations – no not the COMPANY Clear Channel.  When Radio was starting out, the FCC allowed certain stations to have a “lock” on a single frequency on the dial.  I could continue into the electrical engineering/radio fundamentals details, but suffice to say that it allowed these few stations to be heard literally across the country, particularly in the evenings when they turned up their power to the max. WLS, being in Chicago, was almost exactly in the middle of the country, and Mr. Davis’s program was heard literally everywhere in the country.  It was also syndicated at 38 other stations for rebroadcast.  In heavy rotation (like every 5 or 6 songs at first), he would announce, thick-headed, “and again, from our hometown, Chicago, this is Styx!!!”  

It worked – the song became #2 on the WLS weekly survey list and was then on every show at the station, ending the year as the 29th biggest song of 1975 – a good 3 years after it was written and recorded.  If you are not a Styx fan, you probably know at least this song.  It was written by Dennis for his wife Suzanne, and originally written on his electric piano, but when he arrived at the studio to record it, there was an acoustic piano there, and he tried that out (supposedly the first time he had played one) and liked it.  It is now credited with being the first “power ballad” with Dennis being crowned the “father” of that whole genre of music. 

Now leaving Fannie, it took about 2 months for me to realize the Goals I was supposed to achieve were unlikely.  And… I started developing my own Goals and writing them down – a key to actually achieving them.  It quickly morphed into my role in Product Management, which started me into a totally different type of leadership and management, including how to set Goals that not only affect your direct reports, they become an integrating point for… the whole company.  It was the map… a Roadmap – what products were shipping, when, with what features… and then committing to them publicly not just internally but to customers… 

…. And in leaving Fannie I had to sell some options, so for the first time I had a little disposable income, and I treated myself to a car to drive daily… like my boss, a Goal achieved to remind me why I was doing this crazy job.  I would park it on the top floor of the parking garage – because my office overlooked that – and while the sun was not good for the car, seeing it while listening to management pinheads was good for me.  

What I was slowly learning is my Goals were as important as the Goals that were given to me.  I thought that my role was to execute what was being defined. Not only was that not probable, it was unlikely to be good for me or the company.  So stepping out, I started to develop the ability to help others who know what should be done to speak up, and form Goals from the bottom up… and then figure out how to mesh that with what management “thought” was needed.  As you listen to the track that literally changed Styx into a band you know, what is your own “power” ballad?  And how do you start to translate that into some Goals that you can both see and achieve?  Somewhere out there, in your team, are people who have the talent and vision to deliver Goals as transformational as…here they are 30 years later…Lady.

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