One could say that the whole human endeavor is geared toward setting and achieving goals. Accomplishments, like sending someone to the moon or inventing self-driving cars, are the result of a goal that was set and realized. If you look closely, goals are part of every aspect of life: Whether it’s work or personal, everything comes down to priorities and what you would like to accomplish. Without setting goals or objectives, you’re essentially beginning a blind journey filled with arbitrary decisions.
According to research, goal setting is the single most powerful motivational tool in a leader’s toolkit. Wondering why? Well, goal setting provides a
purpose to employees, a challenge, and more importantly, a meaning. Goals are like those guideposts along the road that make a compelling vision come alive. They not only drive people towards a clearer path but leads to greater effort and achievement than easy or vague goals do.
How goals are set is as important as the goal itself to measure success. It is important that goals meet specific criteria to easily assess results. One way of doing this is to use “SMART” goals. SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time-bound, are goals that have an impact!
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, let me take you through each of these acronyms step-by-step. Before starting, keep in mind, that it’s very important when setting SMART goals to formulate them in a POSITIVE frame.
SMART goal setting: Specific
What exactly do you want to achieve? The more specific your description, the bigger the chance you’ll achieve exactly what you intend. A specific SMART goal is the difference between ‘I want to be a millionaire’ and ‘I want to make €50.000 a month for the next ten years by creating a new software product‘. Asking yourself a few ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Why’ and ‘How’ questions is the perfect way to start setting your goals. More than anything, you should know what you want and how you plan to get there.
SMART goal setting: Measurable
Measurable goals mean that you know exactly what you achieve when you reach your objective. Some people like large individual goals and some like smaller milestones aggregated to a larger objective. In either case, the results need to be achievable and quantifiable, backed by evidence. “I want to improve my sales numbers” is an ambiguous goal. Rewrite to say, “I want to improve my sales numbers 10% YOY has a target that one is aspiring to achieve”.
SMART goal setting: Attainable
Is your goal attainable? In simple terms, it means investigating whether the goal is really achievable by you. Weigh the effort, time, ability, and other costs your goal will take against the profits and the other obligations or priorities you have in life. If you don’t have the time, money or talent to reach a certain goal, you’ll likely fail. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take something that seems impossible and make it happen by planning smartly and going for it!
There’s nothing wrong with shooting for the stars; stretch where possible. If you aim to make your department twice as efficient this year as it was last year with no extra labor involved, make sure that is possible while stretching your team. Just make sure it doesn’t break your team.
SMART goal setting: Relevant
This is the most important because it answers the main questions like, why do you want to reach this goal? What is the objective behind the goal, and will this goal really achieve that? It tries to dig into the purpose and reason for running behind a particular goal.
For example, let’s say you’re a marketing head of an organization and you need to create a plan for the quarter. Your ultimate goal would be something like ‘X leads generated in a week’ or making your brand a household name. To sync with the larger goal, setting goals such as ‘10000 followers a month for the quarter’ or ‘15000 website visitors a month’ is more relevant to the bigger picture. Then if you lack certain resources, you can look for ways of getting them.
SMART goal setting: Timely
Time is money! Making a tentative plan of everything you do is crucial. Everybody knows that deadlines are what makes most people take action. So creating deadlines, for yourself and your team is the way to go.
Being too stringent on the timely aspect of your goal setting can have a negative effect of making the learning path a hellish race against time – which is most likely not how you want to achieve anything.
What can SMART goals do for your organization?
A workforce can’t be expected to be truly engaged with an organization that has not defined or communicated their aspirations or vision. Using SMART goals in organizations gives the employees and the management something to work toward and at the same time keeps everyone on the same page.
SMART goals encourage a collaborative atmosphere – this will ensure that these goals are realistic and can be achieved within a given time-frame. Doing so will also promote clarity, which will increase the likelihood of your employees hitting, or even exceeding, their expected targets. This, in turn, leads to increased confidence in their own abilities and motivation to accomplish future goals.
Research has shown that SMART goals save companies significant time. This is ultimately due to the clarity the goals provide. Employees that are uncertain as to what direction they are meant to take or what to do on a given day are far less likely to be an asset to a company. They will spend time on tasks that simply don’t need to be done and will more than likely fail to achieve targets if they don’t really understand them.
Forbes has cited communication as today’s most important skill, and it is critical to the success of any company. It helps to promote collaborative teamwork and engagement. By introducing SMART goals and ensuring that they are dynamic, flexible and constantly revisited, HR executives are doing a lot to promote healthy communication within an organization.
SMART goal setting is one of the simplest and most effective organizational interventions that can be used to increase employee performance, so use them, and use them wisely to give purpose and direction to your employees.