Why should I set SMART goals?
The start of a new year. High season for resolutions, as many people think about what they want to change or achieve. This applies not only to private accomplishments but also to professional development. Often, however, the goals are set too vaguely, or they are too ambitious, so that failure and frustration are pre-programmed.
A reason for us to introduce you to a technique for setting realistic stretch goals that keep you motivated: the SMART goal technique. It works for all kind of goals. In this article we will show it on an example for professional development.
SMART goal technique?
SMART is an acronym. It is easy to remember and each letter describes a criterion that must be met to set goals successfully. It stands for:
Let’s have a closer look at each of the criteria, shall we?
A goal should always be specific. Instead of setting a vague goal like: “Our employees should improve in customer communication” make a clear plan detailing the expected outcome:
When setting goals for others you need to be precise. There should be no room for interpretations if you wish your expectations to be met.
In order to reach the goal, required activities need to be firmly scheduled in the calendar. Alternatively, you may use triggers. Triggers are recurring events that elicit an activity to reach the goal, for example: “When I come back from lunch…” or “In my next client meeting…” etc.
How do you know when your goal has been achieved? To determine this, the goal must be measurable. In our example, the goal is reached when 90% of the field service completed the training. Set regular intervals to evaluate the progress. Maybe you even reach the goal before the set timeline? Or you need to readjust it?
To increase motivation, it is advisable not to make these intervals too long, but to monitor progress regularly.
Be a realistic optimist when setting goals for you / your employees and set stretch goals. Achieving these objectives brings greater satisfaction than goals that can be achieved without effort: You feel that you deserve the credit.
When planning, it is important to also look things that could go wrong. What obstacles may be on the way? What circumstances would prevent reaching the goal? In our example, the availability of training or staff may complicate things as, for example, during the covid pandemic, many face-to-face trainings were suspended.
To achieve your own goals, you should look at the temptations / distractions along the way.
How can you resist these temptations / distractions? Can you identify any strategies to avoid them?
The same applies to obstacles: If you deal with them early on, you may have the opportunity to make a contingency plan for an acceptable solution – in our example, this could be digital training or coaching on influencing skills.
A relevant goal is one that is relevant to the position. It needs to be agreed and if possible embraced. You or you and your employees must want to achieve it.
In our example, the goal is: participation in the training course ‘influencing skills’. This must be discussed and agreed upon with the employees.
If you are in charge for setting goals for others it is good practice to agree them with those involved. Talk to them and encourage them to contribute to the formulation. An objective set together has a higher chance of success than a goal dictated from “above”. Also make sure to phrase positively when setting objectives.
Set firm timelines for reaching the goal, but also, if needed, for interim evaluation. A fixed timeline enables you to determine success or failure.
The timeline in our example is the end of quarter two. However, since reaching the target has a certain lead time and depends on the availability of the training and the staff, you should also plan for final and interim evaluations.
What happens next?
Be disciplined and stick to your plan. Check your progress regularly and share the results of your evaluation with your peers.
This way, you not only accomplish more, but actually know about your achievements.
This knowledge will help you in your discussions as you can point to your measurable success.
We wish you a successful 2021 and hope that SMART goals will facilitate this for you.