To be successful as a leader, a COO, a CEO, or even just as an employee, you need to set goals, but those can’t just be any old goals, they have to be SMART goals.
What are those, exactly?
What is a SMART goal?
The well-known meaning of SMART:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Achievable
- R – Realistic
- T – Timely
Personally, I like to give the S a double meaning:
- S – Shared
But what do each of those mean?
To set SMART goals, you need to be clear on what that means and how to set them. That starts with making sure you have a clear understanding of every letter in the acronym.
Specific: “Your goal should be clear and specific, otherwise you won’t be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it” – Mindtools
According to Mindtools, to be specific, you want to make sure that your SMART goal answers these 5 questions:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Why is this goal important?
- Who is involved?
- Where is it located?
- Which resources or limits are involved?
Measurable: The SMART goal should be able to be quantified or is at the very least tangible. For example, your goals could be, “Move average contract size from $1500 to $1650.” Your goals should include a #, $, or a % sign somewhere, or else you know that your goal is far too vague.
Attainable: While it’s great to set lofty goals that’ll push you to work harder, you still need it to be achievable in the end. Without goals that are actually attainable, you won’t be able to build a culture of achievement.
Relevant: Your SMART goals have to be relevant and aligned with the objectives or the other goals your company is working towards. If not, it may seem like a good goal to you, but in the end, no one else will really care about it. It has to matter to the company.
Timely: Large goals should be broken down into a sequence of goals based on time. As an example, your goal could be to “Have ten calls per day this week.” That goal should be placed directly into your calendar on the exact time and day you’ll actually do that work.
If you’re working with the meaning I put behind the S as well – which I recommend you do – you need to understand the importance and the benefits of sharing your goals.
Shared: Both the manager and employee have to know about the goal and feel it’s a good goal. The goal has maximum buy-in when the subordinate sets it and both people commit to hitting it.
Not only that but sharing your goals helps to keep you accountable. When you know that someone knows you’re trying to achieve something, you’re much more likely to actually achieve it. You don’t want the embarrassment of that person knowing you never did it.
Make SMART Goals a Constant
Break the habit of allowing people to have all their goals due on the last day of the quarter. You could even be doing this, too. There shouldn’t be one set day for goals to be done. Instead, create goals that matter throughout the month/quarter/year. You want to have something to accomplish all the time and to drive you forward. That means setting both large goals and smaller ones you can finish to achieve the big ones.
Every COO, CEO, employee—basically everyone—should create a habit of setting SMART goals. It’s one of the best ways to push yourself forward and to actually accomplish tasks. Taking the time to think these goals out is definitely worth it.
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2011 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.