SMART Goal Setting in Leadership and Management for Success
One of the common topics in leadership and management is goal setting. I originally thought that this may be something that everyone engages in and is straightforward. After having sat through management meetings and college lectures where this is the topic for hours long, I have learned that properly setting goals requires some effort on the part of the goal setter. Setting goals is fundamental to success in exactly the way that you think it would be. In order to be successful generally, we must be successful in many independent areas. This doesn’t occur by accident, rather, it occurs because we have achieved many small victories in order to have won a war.
Why Set Goals?
We set goals for the same reason that we want to achieve things. If we have an undeveloped mind, we typically just want things, and then we try to get them. If we further allow ourselves to develop, we will come to a point where we acknowledge that we desire things, and then we state this desire to ourselves before deciding that we will try to get them. This acknowledgement is very powerful, but more so, the statement to us that we will set out to achieve them is more powerful. There is something about the acknowledgement and statement within us that really makes manifest the journey to obtain.
I would dare to say that anything that we want is closer to obtaining if we set a goal to obtain it. How many of us want what we want right? Why not unlock the power of achievement that is within all of us just by acknowledging it and stating it? I believe now after practicing goal setting that this is akin to booting up some software of the mind and allowing it to do some of the work for us. Certainly, all of the organizations and education centers cannot be misleading us right?
How to Set Goals
I believe that first we need to understand that the goal itself is just an acknowledgement, and from that it is built. Many of us set goals without even knowing what we are doing until we become self-aware enough to be able to quantify what we are doing. In its youth, goal setting is telling ourselves that we want something and that we are going to set out to get it. In its maturity, it is a multi-step process of acknowledgement and declaration that results in a concentrated effort of action until we either achieve or fail and then continue to further set and attempt to successfully achieve.
The endgame of goal setting may not be just acknowledgement and statement. I believe that we must find other ways of declaration to make our most important goals real. I believe this is usually achieved most simply by forming teams and sharing our goals to which we are held accountable as well as writing them down. As a student, this happens frequently on discussion boards and in classrooms. In the workplace, this happens in forums and meetings and is usually a central part of the organization’s activities.
Introduction to SMART Goals
The first time I heard of the system of setting SMART goals, I recall dismissing it as some sort of motivational talk jargon. I didn’t really listen and apply it to any of my personal goal setting strategies. Over the course of attending different conferences, forums, and meetings, SMART goals became a recurring topic. I realized that this was indeed a thing. It wasn’t until I took a pair of courses in college where both of them outlined the process that I really started paying attention and adjusting my methods of goal setting in order to try to benefit from the teachings.
SMART goal setting became a strategy that I memorized just because of the frequency subject matter being passed in front of me. The third course that I took that outlined the important of setting SMART goals convinced me that this was highly beneficial for several reasons. Once I began re-evaluating all of my goals under this system, I began to understand why some of the principles of setting a SMART goal is so important.
What is a SMART Goal?
SMART is an acronym. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Target Dates. Each one of these letters in the acronym serves a very important purpose in the process of setting a SMART goal.
It is important when we set a goal that we are specific in what it is that we want to achieve. If we are too vague or the goal is too broad, it may be unclear when we have achieved success. It may also be impossible to realize that we have not actually achieved the goal. The specificity is important because it is a benchmark that we have to use in order to determine what it is, and have we obtained it yet. A bad example of setting a goal would be to “Arrive on time.” A good example of this same statement would be to “Arrive at work on time”. Here, we are doing the same thing, however, the latter example gives us a specific event that we want to occur, eliminating the generality of the former goal that we could then apply to anything in our day or week and consider it a success. Here we could make it to the parking location on time, but never make it in the door, and use some clever wordplay in order to make it sound as if we have achieved the goal. If we are unable to pinpoint what we have achieved by analyzing what the goal is against the outcome, we may not have nailed down the S for specific in SMART.
Our goals must be measurable. We can’t lace ambiguity in the wording of our goal when we state it to ourselves or others. If a goal is too ambiguous with nothing to measure it against, we again will be unable to determine whether or not we have succeeded or failed. It is important to understand that even though I mention failure so often, that it isn’t intrinsically a bad thing. If we fail at achieving a goal, so be it, however, we must know that we failed, or we will not be able to improve. If we use the example from above, a measurable goal must have some assigned metrics. “Arrive at work on time”, implies that we know what “on time” is, and if are unable to immediately understand that implications, it would be beneficial to us to state it so that it can not be mistaken. “Arrive at work at 10 pm”. This is over-simplifying and avoiding a lot of the specifics, but I believe that the flavor has been communicated here.
We must take care to set goals that are achievable. There is no benefit to setting ridiculous goals for we and putting ourselves through the continued commitment and failure from setting unattainable goals. A mentor once told me that if we are to choose between setting goals too easy or too hard, opt for the goals too easy, because there is at least a subconscious benefit to achieving an easy goal. Setting a goal and then failing may be marked by a conscious and/or subconscious net negative response. We then must use our skills in dealing with failure in order to continue moving forward. If we are habitually late to work, it may be unattainable to declare that “I will never be late to work again, ever”. I would much rather set smaller attainable goals, such as, “I will arrive on time to work every day this week”. Start smaller if it makes sense.
To make your SMART goal action oriented, we must tie it to the goals. We need to use the word “To”, and follow it with action verbs such as complete, acquire, or increase. We should avoid using verbs here that are not direct, such as “engage in” or “begin”.
This was the most important for me to understand. It is important to assign a time, deadline, or target date to the goal. It is important here to not be afraid when doing this. Sometimes we get caught up in worrying about whether we have given ourselves enough or too much time to complete the goal. We are correct in thinking that if we haven’t given ourselves enough time that it would make the goal too challenging as well as if we give ourselves too much time, then the goal becomes too easy and not challenging at all. It is important that we have an attainable ideal time, set it, and work towards it. Once we set a time for our goal, we begin to see the real benefit of goal setting, because we usually experience the drive to make it happen. Even if we erroneously set a time and make our goal unattainable, we will see the results produced from the increased drive of putting ourselves on a schedule.
Using Goal Setting
We can use this system to strive for excellence or obtain whatever it is that we may want. I challenge everyone to begin to be aware of the goals that we set and to more mindfully set them while taking note of changes in our behavior that would lead to an increased success rate of attaining the goals that we set for ourselves. I would be willing to bet that if you practice and try these methods, that you will notice some positive changes in yourself and what you accomplish over a period. Keep in mind that this is a skill and we can get better at it in order to more efficiently and effectively accomplish whatever it is that we set out to do.
Setting goals doesn’t require any
tools. I would be silly though if I said
that I didn’t use any aids when laying out new goals. I keep a log of my most important goals and
have a success network team that holds me accountable to them. I use many forms of technology including the
internet, social media, my iPhone, as well as a daily planner. Here I have included a link to a very helpful
tool for anyone that finds it beneficial to write things down.