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Collaborative Goal Setting

Dec 5, 2012 10:42:29 AM

My husband and I find it challenging to set common goals and to make decisions together, or how to engage in collaborative goal setting.  Are we the only ones?  Finally we have found the decision making process that we hope will help us sort out what is often painful and sometimes impossible.  Learning how to set goals and collaborate on decision making is difficult for us because we come from very different perspectives, styles, and belief systems.  In a best case scenario, these differences should give us more options to work from, and worse case, it creates polarization and angst because we each feel we are not getting our needs met.  So how do we find common ground?  We decided to consult the experts.

If you are ever looking for a way to give your relationship a major shot in the arm (or a kick in the pants), look no farther then Kate and Joel Feldman who are a magical combination of wisdom, wit, and fierce love. They are also a committed couple; one is a relationship coach and the other a licensed relationship therapist.  We worked with them this fall and they helped us set common goals, and among many other things, they gave us an approach to decision making.

The first time we used the decision making steps provided by Joel and Kate, we practiced clarifying our roles in terms of dinner planning and preparation.  The process began with Gathering all the thoughts and ideas about how we would like to divvy up who does what, and when.  All ideas were welcome and we were both careful not to hinder creativity by closing each other down.  For example, when I said we could hire a gourmet chef as one option we had a good laugh, which caused my husband to return the fun with some creative ideas of his own.  The gathering step was both serious and fun.

The next step was to Deliberate and Sort the ideas, really listening to each other’s perspectives.  Once we had a few realistic options, we were ready to move on to Illumination, which is really envisioning and shining a light on a plan that could work for both of us.  We were able at this point to combine some of the options and both of us felt comfortable with the new form the approach was taking.

Testing involved us considering the merits of the plan and asking if there were any reasons why it wouldn’t work.  For us, what we discovered by taking the time to test was that there was a feature of our plan that was at risk and required that we add another component to give the plan a fighting chance.  Following this step, we were able to Finalize our plan and agree to the details of when, who, what, and how it would all come together.

We decided that we would each take responsibility for planning and preparing two meals during the week.  The other would have clean-up duty on those nights.  We would discuss our schedules and the menu the weekend beforehand, to ensure we didn’t have any misunderstanding about each other’s calendar, special dietary needs, and to develop a shopping list.  We opted for more spontaneous planning and preparing meals together on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, and one of those nights we would eat out or order in.   This really satisfies my need to be prepared in advance and he loves the spontaneity we get to have over the weekend.

As we practice a new level of being intentional, what we are discovering is that we both tend to make assumptions about how things should work, from parenting to household chores.  Deeply listening to each other has been eye opening and has revealed how differently we see the world, not better or worse, but different.  Our first new process for setting goals, roles, and agreements around the dinner hour has been fun, and has brought new and interesting dishes to our table.  I notice that in the past few weeks I look forward to both my turn to create and my night to sit back and enjoy.

We are going to use the process next on some financial planning and goal setting.   It feels like we are ready to up the ante, so to speak.  Don’t be afraid to try a new approach to decision making and goal-setting!  If you don’t have a process, either try the one Joel and Kate use, or go searching for one that works for you.  We found several good options online.  If you do have a process that works, but it needs a shot in the arm, reflect and adjust your process to improve connection, clarity, and creativity.

It’s hard work but worth it.

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Deb Siverson

Deb Siverson is the owner and founder of Xponents. She completed her Masters in Organizational Leadership from University of Colorado-Boulder. Deb is the author of the book, "The Cycle of Transformation: igniting organizational change through the leader coach."

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