SMART goal setting is one of the key skills for both leaders and individual contributors when it comes to setting a strong foundation for business (or any type of) success. SMART goals provide clarity when it comes to outcomes, and also establish the gap from where you are currently to where you want to go. They ensure that team goals are relevant to larger organizational goals, and provide both motivation and the opportunity to challenge people to improve their skills and leverage their talents. In my experience as a Business and Executive Coach, I find that most people aren’t quite sure exactly how to leverage this great tool for success. Here is a quick guide on how to use SMART goals to build a strong foundation for success.
What is a SMART goal anyways?
A SMART goal is an acronym which is usually traditionally defined as follows:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Timely
I actually define it in a slightly different manner, which I find is more powerful:
S – Specific
M – Motivational
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Trackable
I’ve combined the timely and measurable into trackable, and added motivational, as I find motivation is a key part of goal setting that often gets overlooked or forgotten completely.
What is the first step in setting a SMART goal?
The starting point for setting SMART goals begins with the S and the T. The written part of the goal is made up of the specific thing you are trying to achieve, as well as how you are going to track your progress. This can be done on an individual level, or in a collaborative way if a manager is working with his or her reports to set goals.
The key point here is that clarity is power! The clearer and more specific you are with your goal, the more likely it is that you will achieve it. When you know exactly what you are trying to accomplish, it becomes much easier to focus, and also much easier to track. For example:
Grow my sales by $100,000 by December 31st by building a referral system that generates at least one referral from 50% of my clients in order to add at least 10 new, $10,000/year clients.
Is very clear and specific when compared to the following goal:
Grow my sales by December 31st.
Both of them are trackable, but the first one is much clearer and more specific, and therefore easier to attain, and also to track.
Once I have a clear and trackable goal, then what?
Now that you have a very focused, clear, and specific goal, it’s important to determine if it meets the 3 other criterion for a SMART goal:
Is it Relevant?
Is your goal relevant to your other goals? If you are a manager or leader, are the goals that each individual member of the team set relevant to the overall goals of the organization? If not, you may need to alter your goal in order to make sure that it works in the context of your overall outcomes.
Is it Attainable?
You can set a great goal for yourself, but if you don’t have the skills, talents, and resources to accomplish the goal, it’s probably not the right goal for you. This is especially important to consider when you are leading people. You want to make sure that the person working on the goal actually has the skills and resources to hit the goal. Otherwise, the person will quickly get discouraged. At the same time, you want to make sure that the goal is somewhat challenging, or they’ll lose interest quickly. There is a delicate balance needed to be successful here.
The key here is to collaborate with the people you are setting goals with to make sure that both you and they feel that the goal is within their reach.
Is it Motivational?
Oftentimes a SMART goal can be specific, trackable, relevant, and attainable, but the person in charge of hitting the goal might not be motivated by it. This can really only be determined by the individual that’s working towards the goal. There are a couple of things you can do though if motivation is an issue:
- Change the goal. If it’s not motivational, then alter the goal so that it is.
- Share and clarify the why. Sometimes when someone knows why they are tasked with a specific goal, it becomes motivational. Sharing the impact it will have on the overall outcomes of the team can be helpful here. Knowing the purpose can be a powerful motivator!
- Check in with the person regularly. If the person working towards achieving the goal isn’t motivated naturally by it, you can check in with them on a regular basis to provide support and direction. This is important if the goal is really something that has to be done, and you can’t change or alter it in a way that motivates the individual.
So why does all of this matter?
SMART goals matter because they set the foundation for moving forward. When people are clear about what they are trying to achieve and they know how their progress will be tracked and measured, that gives them the clear direction they need. Furthermore, when the goals are relevant to the larger organizational goals, are attainable, and people are motivated by them, it becomes significantly easier to lead.
When you utilize the SMART goal process, you’ll find that it provides a strong foundation for success that you can build from.
Happy goal setting!