You’ve probably heard about SMART goals and the importance of making sure a goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. This framework is
commonly used by organizations to help employees create goals for an annual
performance review, but even though SMART goals are valuable, there are a few
missing pieces to a SMART goal that may hinder your company’s progress.
Over the years I have had both successes and failures as I have worked toward my
goals – and I want to share what works. First, let’s explore the importance of
Why Are SMART Goals Valuable?
Having a vague goal, or no goal at all, creates a number of challenges. It is
difficult to prioritize daily work when you don’t know what you and your
organization are working towards. Not having a clear or defined goal can also
create stress as you may experience a lingering feeling that you should be
doing more to stay on track. It would be pretty challenging to have a
professional football game without the yard lines in the field or to train for
a marathon if you didn’t know how far it was. The same goes in organizations,
we need to know what we are working toward in order to effectively accomplish
The problem is that we often stop there. Goals are typically set at the beginning
of the year and then we carry on with our daily routine. Yes, we think about
the goal and yes, we are likely doing work toward the goal. The reality is that
we don’t look at all the factors that enable us to accomplish the goal, thus
making a SMART goal not so smart.
What SMART Goals Are Missing
- Goal planning – Goal setting and goal planning are not one in the same. Setting a goal should be viewed as step one, followed by a detailed plan to accomplish the goal. Effective goal planning requires us to take the goal and work backwards to identify the incremental milestones that will get us there.
- Determining success factors– Some contributions toward our goal will be more meaningful than others. Identifying the key behaviors, activities and accomplishments that will “make or break” our success can help us prioritize more effectively.
- Mental preparedness – Coming up with a goal is the ‘easy’ part. Changing behavior, stepping out of our comfort zone and exerting energy toward a goal is an entirely different story. With any goal, we should take a moment to ask ourselves -How confident do I feel about accomplishing this goal? What sacrifices or changes will I need to make to accomplish this goal? Am I ready for that?
- Defining our support network (aka goal army) – Organizational goals sometimes look at how to pull different groups together, but it’s often underdeveloped. Ask yourself -“Who can I share my goal with to find others that are doing something similar?” What groups and organizations can I reach out to in order
to become aligned with like-minded people? How can I surround myself with
the tools that I need to be successful? At work, the goal army also includes outside vendors that specialize in the areas your goals are focused on, like advertising specialists or financial professionals.
- Listing out our anti-goals – In addition to thinking about goals, we need to think about the obstacles, bad habits, and conflicting priorities that disrupt forward progress. Knowing the de-railers is arguably just as important as knowing the goal.
- Identifying our stability factors – It’s common to feel overwhelmed or intimidated when you are working toward a goal, especially a stretch goal. You will be required to push outside of your comfort zone and the risk of making mistakes or failing can make it difficult to feel confident in our abilities. Reminding yourself of the factors that are not changing can help you find your ‘anchor’ so that you can step outside your comfort zone and know that you have something to come back to.
- An individual starting her or his own business may want to work a part-time job on the side to maintain a level of financial stability while venturing into the unknown.
- The newly promoted HR Director may want to make a list of the aspects of the role that will change with the promotion and the job tasks that will stay the same. Then she can focus on the skills needed to grow into the changing responsibilities.
Let Leadership Extension Help With Your Goal Planning
Most of us have a limit on how much change we can effectively withstand at any given time. Breaking up our goals, defining the success factors, mentally preparing for change, building your goal army, identifying anti-goals and our stability factors will enable us to accomplish our goals more effectively. If you would like to discuss tools, templates and resources that can improve your organization’s results, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.