The Missing Attributes to Make Your SMART Goals SMARTER

How to make your SMART goals SMARTER

Leaders can stimulate higher performance if they make SMART Goals SMARTER.

The History of SMART Goals
SMART goals have been around since managers in the 1980’s discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them effectively.  The idea makes sense for leaders and managers to help make sure that each individual, team and the company as a whole has clear objectives that are:

  • Specific – goals clear enough and specific enough to focus your efforts
  • Measurable – goals where progress can be tracked so it is clear where you stand
  • Achievable – goals realistic and attainable enough to buy into
  • Relevant – goals that matter enough to the individual, their boss, their team and the company as a whole to strive to achieve
  • Time-bound – goals that have a deadline of when the result(s) can be achieved

What SMART Goals Do
SMART goals are an effective management tool that provides clarity, focus, motivation and accountability.  The best leaders, however, know that more is needed to stimulate higher and differentiated performance from their teams.

How to Improve SMART Goals
To make SMART Goals SMARTER, leaders must find the narrow performance window where a goal will have the desired effect of motivating people to perform at their peak..  For example, how a leader or manager defines “Achievable” has a major impact on team performance.  If the goal is too difficult, people will become dis-engaged; equally, if the goal is too easy, you will not motivate the maximum effort or outcome. So when it comes to setting goals, there is a performance window of “Just Possible” that makes goals more potent in driving improved performance than just being “Achievable.”

The Hallmark of High Performance
Clear and simple goals are the hallmark of a high performance culture. Without them, it is difficult to provide the direction and focus necessary to maximize performance.  An example of a clear goal is climbing to the top of Mount Everest – defined simply as “Summiting” (and ideally returning safely).  The goal is so clear that it has been reduced to one word.  Another example of a clear and simple goal is “Finding water on Mars” – a goal defined by NASA.  Their is no ambiguity regarding what the NASA team is trying to accomplish.

Four Attributes to Improve SMART Goals
So remember, if you want your leaders and managers to sustain the right amount of performance pressure to drive improved performance to meet important targets, make SMART goals SMARTER by adding these four attributes to your SMART goals:

  1. Clear, Simple and Few.  There cannot be any doubt about the direction and focus of what you want people to achieve and efforts, resources and energy should not be diluted.  For big strategic goals, try not to have more than two or three goals at any one time.
  2. Understood and Believable Enough.  People must be able to articulate what they are trying to accomplish and believe that it is possible within your unique corporate culture and the market conditions in which you compete.  Do not strive for 100% perfection.  It will take too long.  You just need enough understanding and belief to move forward cohesively so you can learn and inevitably adjust along the way.
  3. Just Possible.  Different than Achievable, potent high performance goals are a bit of a stretch.  People should perceive the objectives to be challenging but within their control and just within their grasp to motivate them to push to their limits.  remember, you want the goals to stimulate the next level of performance.
  4. Meaningful, Fulfilling and Relevant.  The goals should be tied to intrinsic and extrinsic motivators proportional to the achievement of the objectives.  Ideally the goals hold personal significance and are emotionally felt by the team while being aligned with the environmental circumstances.

To learn more about creating a high performance culture, download The Three Levels of a High Performance Culture

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