Smart goal setting is a necessity for self leadership. When you look at any sample professional development plans or inquire about creating a personal leadership development plan, you will find setting and achieving goals as one of the core practices.
Here is a goal setting activity that if practiced will accelerate you toward your highest and best priorities. Good goals are critical to better time management and execution. SMART is a popular and well used acronym. Moreover, it’s a helpful tool for moving forward.
1. Using the SMART Goal Setting acronym, analyze goals you have made in the past and how effective they have been.
2. Then develop a new set of goals based on the same SMART goal setting criteria.
Working through a goal setting activity like this will make you much more aware of just how you have done in the past and what you need to make the best goals possible for the future.
A lot of us are goal deprived, preferring, more by default than anything else, to just let life happen to us. This is one of the sure roads to stress and burnout. I once read that less than 3% of people put pen to paper and write down their goals. I am sure much the same could be said for many of our organizations. Interestingly, it is the same 3% who accomplish more than all the 97% combined.
Let’s get started with this goal setting activity. Using the acronym SMART, here are the things to aim for when you write down your goals. Check yourself against them.
Goal Setting Activity - S
Specific Well defined Specific goals define the desired outcome, objective or benefit to be delivered. It defines the specific target you are aiming at. This allows you to focus your thinking and efforts.
No ambiguity– Goals are clear to anyone who has some understanding of the organization.
Clear. Clarity in goal setting is critical. Specific goals let everyone know what, when and how much. Specific goals allow you to measure progress toward completion. What – What do you really want the result to be?
Where – Define a location if this is important to the goal.
When – A specific date on the calendar
Who – Who is involved?
Why – This is the motivating factor. Why are you doing this? What are the benefits of accomplishing this goal?
Example: An ambiguous goal would be: “I want to begin painting again.” A specific goal would be “I will submit two paintings to the art show on November 10th”.
Goal Setting Activity - M
Measurable A measurement lets you know when you have attained of accomplished your desired end result. For example, numbers are easily understandable measurements – 8 months, 4 days per week, $100,000 dollars, 60 pounds, 2 paintings.
Progress – When you can measure, you know how much is completed and how much farther there is to go.
Celebration – You have a measurement that allows you to celebrate important milestones on the way to your goal.
Benchmark – Here’s where I started and what I measure against. Here’s how far I have come.
Deadline – November 10th is a deadline. You can’t be much clearer than that. Target dates assist you to stay on track. It has been said that a goal without a deadline is just a dream. Because you have recorded the goal, you can point to your completion of it as a success. It builds confidence and locks in proof that you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish.
Goal Setting Activity - A
Action-Oriented Action words are clear. “I will submit “ is a whole lot clearer than, “I should submit”; “If I get two paintings done, I’ll submit” or “I would like to submit”. Many organizations I have worked for, have mamby pampy goals (no, make that wishes!) that will likely get them no where. Action verbs get you somewhere. That’s why we call this a goal setting activity.
Measuring something that is being done is easier than trying to measure nothing being done.
A - Attainable Some people set goals that are unattainable. I have nothing against big goals. But if there is no way you can accomplish ‘world peace’ in your lifetime, that is unattainable. Making a brief to a UN forum on world peace to be held next year is attainable.
A goal should be a stretch, just beyond our immediate grasp, or just beyond employees and volunteers immediate reach enough to pull us forward and challenges our comfort zones to accomplish. It provides a sense of excitement, anticipation and desire to reach the goal.
Set right – A goal set too high or too low (less than the normal standard performance) doesn’t hold any relevance. It will be dismissed and ignored. A goal that is set right will start you thinking on how you can make it happen. You begin to increase your capacity for reaching the goal by adding skills, attitudes, experiences and resources (both human and physical) that can assist you to get there.
A – Agreed Upon - All stakeholders agree what this goal should be.
A - Acceptable - If you set the goal, your motivation for reaching it is much higher than something dictated from the outside. It is ‘acceptable’ to you, in line with who you are as a person and how you best perform. Tomorrow we will conclude this goal setting activity.
We cover much more detail in the courses, programs and coaching that we assist our clients with. Those who pay attention move further in a shorter period of time.
Goal Setting Activity - R - Realistic
There are people, resources, information and time to make this happen. It can be a reality. ‘Realistic’ is not a substitute word for ‘simple’ or ‘easy’ and you may have to stretch to make it happen, but it is within the realm of reality to accomplish.
Keep in mind that to one person this may be totally unrealistic, while to another, the thrill of knowing that it just might be possible moves them forward. (I love seeing that light come on with a client.) Many scientific breakthroughs and new product developments have been made in this way. It required a steep learning curve but the end result was achieved. Witness the US program to put a man on the moon in the 1970’s.
Be sure in your own mind that this goal is possible, even if people have to push the barriers of what is now known in order to get there. It was Henry Ford who said, “If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
The key is that you believe it can be accomplished and you are ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Keep in mind that a whole series of smaller goals can add up to a spectacular result over time. It’s all in the strategic approach you take.
R – Relevant The goal must somehow relate to who you are or who your organization is and where it is going. Will it contribute to furthering your mission and the vision you have of the future?
Goal Setting Activity - T
Time Framed; Time Bound; Time Structured Enough - You have allowed enough time to achieve the objective and not so much time that the goal drifts off into lack of momentum and obscurity.
Set the time – There is nothing like a good due-date or deadline. They are specific, clear and totally capture your focus. Have a starting point, ending point and fixed ‘reporting’ times along the way. Reporting or ‘checking in’ overcomes the tendency to just let life happen and get caught up in the daily ‘stuff’ of life, business or ministry. Example: First painting to be done by Aug 15. Second to be done by Oct 31. Submit both to the Art Show by Nov. 10th.
Break larger goals down into more manageable chunks. As in the example above, two paintings represent two projects.
What have you noticed as you went through this exercise? Maybe you thought your implementation of goals was poor but you discovered your action was off because your goals were ill-defined. That’s a very important point to note. Whatever you learned, take the time to make the adjustments you need to get you on the path to success. And I do wish you every success in setting SMART goals in life, work and leadership.