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Leadership

Guide to SMART Goal Setting: For you and your team

Matthew Channell - Last Update: 04 Sep 2020

Contents

What are SMART goals?

Who are goals used by?

Specific SMART Goals

Measurable SMART Goals

Achievable SMART Goals

Relevant SMART Goals

Time-bound SMART Goals

SMART goals worksheet

 

Matthew Channell.jpg
Matthew Channell

Director at TSW Training and Non-Executive Director helping businesses to grow through their people.

SMART goals (or SMART objectives) help organisations, teams and individuals to gain a sense of direction and purpose.

By setting them, you are providing clear expectations for performance and often the motivation needed to get a job done well.

A broken fortune cookie

Key points

  • SMART goals can be set by managers or team leaders for their teams, or you can make your own
  • They're used to give you focus, help you prioritise and work more productively
  • SMART goals are the solution to vaguery and stagnant progress

What are SMART goals?

A team working together in an office

SMART is a goal-setting framework to help you plan, prioritise and focus on your goals. The acronym SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

Each word is a step in the framework. You must cover all five steps to design the objectives so you can fully achieve them.

SMART works for great big audacious goals as well as it does for personal goal setting. 

Who are goals used by?

Goals and objectives are set by:

  • Line managers and team leaders for their teams or direct reports
  • Senior managers and executives, to guide the whole organisation
  • Vendors, for their suppliers, ensuring both vendor and supplier have agreed on expectations
  • Individuals, for themselves

With goals set every day, and by so many people, I’d say it’s pretty important that we get them right. Yet, far too often, goal setting is either rushed or ignored when embarking on new projects or short term action-taking.

SMART objectives examples

A typewriter with the word 'goals' typed out

Bikes-r-us CEO, Mark Von Bicycle, has an audacious goal. He wants to sell a heap more exercise bikes, a new addition to his product portfolio in the last year. In a group memo, topped and tailed with some motivational speaking, Mark stated rather briefly that:

“…I want us to sell more exercise bikes next quarter.”

Hmmm, not so SMART. Let’s see how we can help.

The Kipling Method and the SMART stages

If Mark wants to set a great SMART goal I commend to him Kipling's 'six honest serving-men'. At each stage of setting SMART objectives, he should ask:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

This has been coined the 'Kipling Method', named after poet Rudyard Kipling and his poem from the tale of the Elephant's Child.

The five stages of SMART are interlinked - you cannot discuss one part without considering another.

The questions you ask at each stage aren't set in stone, use your own questions with Kipling's method to better think out your goals.

When setting a goal it is vital that you outline the actions as precisely as possible and provide all the information available to you. Don't hold anything back (unless it's confidential).

My top tip - don't try to be too concise at the outset. Get all the detail in there and go for longer SMART goals that cover all the bases. You can come back after and take out any waffle.

smart goals template download with smart goals examples

Specific SMART Goals

To make your goal specific you can consider things like:

  • What needs to be achieved? What resources are needed?
  • Why does this need to be accomplished?
  • Who needs to be involved to get it done? Who is responsible for goal achievement?
  • Where will this goal get achieved?
  • When should we take action?
  • How does it need to be done?

A specific goal example:

"I want the sales team in our London branch to sell 50 more next-generation exercise bikes in quarter two, compared to quarter one, because they have the highest margins of all our exercise bikes. We'll do this by making 300 more sales calls to our database and visiting all our current gym customers to discuss this new bike”

Measurable SMART Goals

A chart on a desk

It's an old cliche, 'what gets measured gets done'. When setting goals you should always document the criteria for measuring success.

It is a great practice to include milestones for bigger tasks and projects, to track progress and ensure things are on track.

To make your goal measurable you can consider things like:

  • What needs to be measured?
  • Why does this need to be measured?
  • Who needs to measure it?
  • Where will this goal get measured?
  • When should we be measuring? (Consider milestones and overall success measures)
  • How will progress and performance get measured? How will we know when we have achieved this objective?

A measurable goal example:

"I want the sales team in our London branch to sell 75 more next-generation exercise bikes in quarter two, compared to quarter one, because they have the highest margins of all our exercise bikes. We'll do this by making 300 more sales calls to our database and visiting all our current gym customers to discuss this new bike.

Last quarter we sold 150 bikes, so this quarter we need to sell 225 bikes. We will track progress each month in quarter two with a goal of 75 bikes sold per month. Jayne will report the sales figures in the monthly management meeting

Achievable SMART Goals

Making goals achievable is as important putting an engine in a car! People should be empowered, motivated by a sense of purpose and achievement that drives them to accomplish a goal.

So, what happens when we have goals that are unachievable? You guessed it, de-motivation and a lack of drive!

There is a fine balance between a stretch goal and one that is unattainable. Make sure you communicate why you think something is achievable (or agree on this with yourself).

To make your goal achievable you can consider things like:

  • What is actually realistic for this individual or team?
  • Why might they not be able to achieve the goal? (consider resources and capability)
  • Who needs to be involved to make it achievable?
  • Where might things go wrong and what can we do about that?
  • When can this goal be achieved by, given the capacity and capability of the individual/team?
  • How can we ensure that the goal is achievable?

An achievable goal example:

"I want the sales team in our London branch to sell 75 more next-generation exercise bikes in quarter two, compared to quarter one, because they have the highest margins of all our exercise bikes. We'll do this by making 300 more sales calls to our database and visiting all our current gym customers to discuss this new bike.

Last quarter we sold 150 bikes, so this quarter we need to sell 225 bikes. We will track progress each month in quarter two with a goal of 75 bikes sold per month. Jayne will report the sales figures in the monthly management meeting.

This is definitely achievable. We have a great team and we have increased our sales by this amount with our children's bikes range. We've also brought on two more people in the sales team, so there is plenty of capacity for getting out to visit the gyms

Relevant SMART Goals

A team review work on a white board

Understanding the WHY behind what we do is illustrated well in the 'JFK and the Janitor' story; 

President John F. Kennedy was making a routine visit at NASA space station in 1961. On his visit, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor. He asked the janitor what he did at NASA. His response  “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”.

What does this have to do with relevance? The janitor understood how floor mopping was a job with purpose, one small task that impacted on a much bigger objective. 

When you are setting goals, make sure that it is clear how they align with the overall team and business objectives. Considering how the goal is part of a higher purpose can be highly motivating, leading to greater engagement and success.

To make your goal relevant you can consider things like:

  • What will happen as a result of achieving this goal? What's in it for you, the individual or the team (bonus, sense of achievement)?
  • Why is this goal relevant?
  • Who is it relevant to? Who is it irrelevant for?
  • Where will this goal get us in relation to our purpose?
  • When will the relevance of this goal become clear? (Immediately, only when we achieve the goal)
  • How can I communicate the relevance?

A relevant goal example:

"I want the sales team in our London branch to sell 75 more next-generation exercise bikes in quarter two, compared to quarter one, because they have the highest margins of all our exercise bikes. We'll do this by making 300 more sales calls to our database and visiting all our current gym customers to discuss this new bike. Last quarter we sold 150 bikes, so this quarter we need to sell 225 bikes. We will track progress each month in quarter two with a goal of 75 bikes sold per month. Jayne will report the sales figures in the monthly management meeting. 

This is definitely achievable. We have a great team and we have increased our sales by this amount with our children's bikes range. We've also brought on two more people in the sales team, so there is plenty of capacity for getting out to visit the gyms

If we achieve this goal we will be on track to hitting our overall revenue target for the year, but will also improve our profit margin significantly from the x% we budgeted. If we meet the organisation's revenue and profit targets the whole team will get their annual bonus

Time-bound SMART Goals

Two people in a meeting

Making goals time-bound refers to the setting of deadlines, making sure that we stay on track in our pursuit of success.

In the words of the American actor, Val Kilmer, "Without deadlines and restrictions I just tend to become preoccupied with other things."

Be sure to agree on achievable deadlines, they keep teams aligned to a common purpose and increase levels of focus. 

To make your goal time-bound you can consider things like:

  • What might affect the timeline for this goal? 
  • Why might this deadline be missed?
  • Who will keep things on track with the deadline and communicate if there are problems meeting it?
  • Where will we track progress in relation to this goal?
  • When does this goal need to be achieved by?
  • How can we ensure that the deadline is achievable?

A time-bound goal example:

"I want the sales team in our London branch to sell 75 more next-generation exercise bikes in quarter two, compared to quarter one, because they have the highest margins of all our exercise bikes. We'll do this by making 300 more sales calls to our database and visiting all our current gym customers to discuss this new bike. Last quarter we sold 150 bikes, so this quarter we need to sell 225 bikes. We will track progress each month in quarter two with a goal of 75 bikes sold per month. Jayne will report the sales figures in the monthly management meeting. 

This is definitely achievable. We have a great team and we have increased our sales by this amount with our children's bikes range. We've also brought on two more people in the sales team, so there is plenty of capacity for getting out to visit the gyms

If we achieve this goal we will be on track to hitting our overall revenue target for the year, but will also improve our profit margin significantly from the x% we budgeted. If we meet the organisation's revenue and profit targets the whole team will get their annual bonus

We have until the end of quarter two (June 30th) to hit these numbers and will expect to see the monthly targets being hit along the way. Jayne will need to report in to the management meeting on the last Friday of every month

SMART goals template - free download

Now you have all the information you need to build your SMART goals. If you need a bit of extra support, download the TSW SMART goal worksheet - it's a free tool to give you a way to set clear and measurable goals for yourself and for your teams.

You can use this template again and again, for each new goal. Just save a new copy each time.

SMART goals worksheet