SMART Goal Setting
or How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions!
While some managers would believe it is sufficient to urge employees to ‘do their best’, there are clear contradicting views on this. People who are told to ‘do their best’ will not do so. ‘Doing your best’ has no external reference, which makes it impossible to elicit specific behavior. To reach a goal, it is important that employees have a clear view of what is expected from them. A SMART goal is important because it helps to formulate a clear path to success. However, when goals are established at a management level and simply laid down, employee motivation with regard to achieving these goals is suppressed. In order to increase motivation, the employees not only need to be allowed to participate in the goal setting process, but the goals have to be challenging as well.
The impact of goal setting:
A study of a Yale University graduate glass found that only 3% had written goals. A follow-up 20 years later found that this 3% had a combined wealth exceeding the other 97%.
Everyone will benefit from goals and objectives if they are SMART. SMART, is the instrument to apply in setting your goals and objectives.
S – Specific
Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help focus your efforts and clearly define what you are going to do.
Specific is the What, Why, and How of your goals.
• WHAT are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organize, coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build, etc.
• WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish?
• HOW are you going to do it? (Do you need to enlist someone’s help, do you know how to overcome the inevitable obstacles, etc.)
Ensure the goals you set are very specific, clear and (if you have more than one goal) range from easy to difficult. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2 inches off your waistline or to walk 5 miles at an aerobically challenging pace.
M – Measurable
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, there is success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal.
Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. How will you know when you reach your goal? Be specific! “I want to make five new sales before the end of the month” shows the specific target to be measured. “I want to sell more” is not as measurable.
Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goals.
A – Attainable
When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.
Goals you set which are too far out of your reach, you probably won’t commit to doing. Although you may start with the best of intentions, the knowledge that it’s too much for you means your subconscious will keep reminding you of this fact and will stop you from even giving it your best.
A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. For instance, if you aim to lose 20lbs in one week, we all know that isn’t achievable. But setting a goal to loose 1lb and when you’ve achieved that, aiming to lose a further 1lb, will keep it achievable for you.
The feeling of success which this brings helps you to remain motivated. If you reach your goal you can reset it to something beyond your initial benchmark.
R – Realistic
This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “do-able.” It means that the learning curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn’t break them.
Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. A goal of never again eating sweets, cakes, and chocolate may not be realistic for someone who really enjoys these foods.
For instance, it may be more realistic to set a goal of eating a piece of fruit each day instead of one sweet item. You can then choose to work towards reducing the amount of sweets gradually, and then this feels realistic for you.
Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren’t very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!
T – Timely
Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by year’s end, by retirement. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards.
If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now.
Time must be measurable, attainable and realistic.
Write it down! Goals that are written are real! Put your goals in a place that you will see regularly (the desktop of your computer, a poster on your wall, your refrigerator, etc.), that helps keep it in the forefront of your thinking.
If you are faced with a decision about production, (I can easily produce 4 widgets an hour, should I go for 5 or 6 as my new goal) go for the harder goal. This will force your mental creativity to come up with alternative ideas to get the job done.
Share your goals with someone (this is important) who will support them. Stay away from naysayers!
If your goal is going to take a year to accomplish, break it down into shorter sections so you can see your progress.
If you have more than one goal: prioritize them – ask “what is most important to focus on for the next 30 days”; stager your due dates; work on the “easier” one first (The simple goals motivate you as you accomplish them rapidly. The difficult goals keep you challenged and growing.); look for ways to combine tasks – take a vacation (one goal) at a wilderness resort where you can take classes in wildlife photography (another goal); strive for balance – don’t set ten career goals and neglect your family and friends.
Keep in mind:
The definition of insanity: Keep doing the same thing, expecting a different result.
Corollary: If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else!!
If you feel “stuck” when it comes to goals, here is a great article I hope will help: How to Set Goals When You’re Feeling Stuck