by William Craig

A lesson from facebook in developing inspiring goals that drive action

Jun 15, 2016
InternetIT LeadershipSocial Networking Apps

Mark Zuckerberg's talk from the F8 Developer Conference has some great tips for companies that want to start setting better and have more actionable goals.

Facebook screenshot

Seasoned CEOs and CIOs know that there is a fine line between business goals that drive action and business goals that sit dead in the water. It seems to me, the differences between the two are subtle, but entirely too accessible for companies to ignore.

There are three major points you need to hit when creating and, just as importantly, when explaining your company’s goals to your teams.

To illustrate these points, I’ll be referring to a recent talk given by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook F8 Developer Conference: 

In the clip, Zuckerberg says Facebook’s goal for the next 10 years is this: “Give everyone the power to share anything with anyone.”

It’s an incredibly general, seemingly impossible goal for even Facebook. Yet, it becomes a tangible goal from which employees can derive next actions because of the three points Zuckerberg hits next.

1. Back goals with a big ‘because’

Immediately after revealing Facebook’s 10-year goal, Zuckerberg points out that more than four billion people are not on the Internet in 2016.

“And we need to change this,” Zuckerberg says. “Because, beyond communication, we know that for every 10 people who get online, about one person gets lifted out of poverty because they get access to tools for education and finding jobs.”

Suddenly, Facebook’s 10-year goal is also about helping people learn more, find jobs and find ways to improve their economic situations.

That’s ‘because’ employees can get behind and feel motivated by their day-to-day work. And, while your company’s goal doesn’t have to be connecting the entire world to the Internet or raising millions of people out of poverty, I think this serves as a good example of how the ‘why’ matters just as much as the ‘what’ in terms of goal setting.

2. Tie in a genuine personal appeal

Next, Zuckerberg hones in on the media sharing Facebook wants to encourage in its users. But he doesn’t just say that. Instead, he discusses how human beings have a universal desire to be understood and relate to one another.

“We’re always looking for better and richer ways to express ourselves and share with one another,” he says. He notes even something as simple as the ways in which we share our children’s first steps has changed drastically over time. Whereas new parents used to use baby books, parents today will be able to take 360-degree VR videos and share the whole experience with their friends and families.

Zuckerberg talks about his own parents, sister and his daughter as he describes this example, which makes it easy for anyone listening to apply the same examples to themselves.

So, while part of Facebook’s 10-year goal is to get more users to share more media with one another, Zuckerberg presents this concept in such a way that anyone working at Facebook could see a personal value in tackling this massive goal.

3. Break your goal down into smaller contexts

Now we get into the grit of making Facebook’s goal a reality. As Zuckerberg points out, people don’t always interact with one another in the same way:

“Sometimes we just want to talk to one friend. Sometimes we want to hang out with a few friends. Sometimes we have something that we want to share with all our friends or with all our coworkers or with an entire community…”

Pinpointing each change in interaction context, Zuckerberg discusses the ways that Facebook’s different apps will allow people to share exactly what they want with exactly who they want, thus furthering Facebook’s 10-year goal.

You have WhatsApp (acquired in 2014) for when you just want to communicate with one person. You have Instagram (acquired in 2012) for when you want to share something with the world. And, when broken down into these smaller products and focus contexts, the goal to “give everyone the power to share anything with anyone” looks like it might actually be possible.

By taking something that seemed intangible and breaking it down into tangible steps with genuine motivations behind them, Zuckerberg both motivates employees to action and sets up the roadmap for Facebook’s next 10 years.

He later builds off of this whole discussion by laying out how Facebook will focus its efforts in the next 10 years, but that’s another discussion entirely.

What I want you to take away from this post is that, if you want to create inspiring goals that drive action, you need to back goals with a big ‘because,’ tie in a personal appeal and break goals down into smaller contexts.