How to Make Your SMART Goals SMARTER

How to Make Your SMART Goals SMARTER
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It is Time to SMART Goals SMARTER
Having a meaningful destination and keeping score is important.  Most leaders can stimulate higher performance from their teams if they help make their SMART Goals SMARTER. But defining the right goals is both science and art.

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 has made its way into most new manager training programs and 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.

  • Goals that Are Too Difficult
    If the goal is too difficult, people will become disengaged.
  • Goals that Are Too Easy
    If the goal is too easy, you will not motivate the maximum effort or outcome.

The Performance Range
So when it comes to setting goals, there is a performance range 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 as a result of your strategy retreat 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
    To create clarity, there cannot be any doubt about the direction and focus of what you want people to achieve.   Efforts, resources and energy should not be diluted.  For big strategic goals, try not to have more than two or three at any one time.
  2. Understood and Believable Enough
    First, people must be able to articulate what they are trying to accomplish.  Then they must 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 a “good enough” understanding and “good enough” belief to move forward cohesively so you can learn and inevitably adjust along the way.

  3. Just Possible
    Different than Achievable, effective high performance goals are a bit of a stretch.  People should perceive the objectives to be challenging but within their control.  Strive to make important goals just within people’s grasp to motivate them to push to their limits.

    You want goals to stimulate the next level of performance.

  4. Meaningful, Fulfilling, and Relevant
    The goals should be tied to intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and be proportional to the achievement of the objectives.  Ideally the goals hold personal significance, are emotionally felt by the team, and are aligned with the environmental circumstances.

The Bottom Line
The right goals can help individuals, teams, and organizations to perform at the peak.  High performance teams set meaningful, clear, and achievable goals that create full commitment from the entire team.

To learn more about creating a high performance team, download The 3 Levels of a High Performing Culture Leaders Must Get Right to Thrive

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