Setting SMART goals for effective leadership

7 min read

Goals are a huge part of any effective leadership strategy for both the leader and those they lead. Without effective, actionable goals, it can be hard to drive and build your team, and it can be even harder to get your team to focus and truly grow. The type of goal is just as important as the content of the goal itself, and setting SMART goals that are going to work for you is essential.

What is a SMART Goal?

When it comes to setting and attaining goals, SMART can be used both as an acronym and a general outlook. A smart goal is just that, one that is well thought out and attainable. It can also be looked at based on SMART, as set forth by Peter Brucker in his Management by Objectives concept. Smart goals leadership can make leading your team easier as well.

SMART stands for, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Each concept is important and does affect the goal and how attainable it is. Let us now look at each aspect of a SMART goal and discuss how it affects the goal, the team, and the ability to reach that goal.

Specific

The first aspect is the specificity of the goal. It is far easier to reach something or attain something if you know what you are looking for or striving for. Your goals need to be specific to what you hope to attain. They need to be simple enough for your entire team to understand, and they need to be significant to what you hope to achieve overall.

A great way to think about it is to look at an example. Say you have the tune of a song stuck in your head. The only information you have is the tune. The goal is to find out what the song is so that you can listen to it and get it out of your head. It is far easier to understand what song you are looking for and to determine what the song is with as much information as possible. If you know the artist, that helps, if you know what time of day you heard it or what radio station you were listening to, etc., these are all pieces of information that make the goal more specific and provide you with more context when it comes to reaching your goal.

The same can be said for goals set in the workplace. The more information you give your team, the more specific the goal is, and the more sensible it is, the easier it is to reach that goal. A team will be far more likely to reach a goal if they know why they are striving to reach it and if they have all the information that they need to reach that goal and complete it.

Measurable

Another facet to consider is how measurable the goal is and how it will change things when it is reached. People are far more likely to want to reach a goal if there is some tangible benefit or something that will signify that they met the goal after the fact. This does not mean that you have to provide a huge reward each time you set a goal for your team, simply that a team is more likely to strive to meet a goal if it is meaningful and motivating overall.

A team or an individual, for that matter, is going to work harder toward a goal if it benefits them and if they can see that it is meaningful and valuable overall. Say reaching a goal will provide your team with a new set of skills that will make work easier. They may be getting compensated. They may get recognized by name. These are all things that make the goal more meaningful and, therefore, more likely that your team will work harder to try to reach it.

Goals that are set for the betterment of the people working toward them are far more likely to be met than those set for the benefit of one person. Take the time to make sure that the goals you are selecting have meaning and benefit for all involved, and you will get a far better response on the whole.

Achievable

The next thing to keep in mind is that goals need to be achievable. There is nothing worse than a goal that you or your team cannot feasibly meet. We have all been there, we attempt to do something, and we cannot do it. We then feel the sting of failure, and it tends to color what we do for the remainder of the day or longer. Failure is not a happy feeling and making sure you set goals that your team can meet makes a difference.

Even small victories can encourage people to move forward and keep trying, and it can also help you feel better about what you have achieved and what you have met. Setting goals that are lofty but that can still be met and can still be reached can make a huge difference in the grander scheme of things. It is helpful, again, to look at an example.

Say you have a team that needs to meet a productivity goal. You wouldn’t want to set the goal incredibly high so that the team cannot meet it, but rather, set the goal to the strengths of the team and make sure that they can meet the goal that they are being set. You want to make sure that you set attainable goals so that your team can meet goals and feel the satisfaction of meeting a goal rather than not being able to meet it.

Relevant

Your goals also need to be relevant to the team and relevant overall. You want to set goals that are reasonable as well. This also relates to the achievable aspect. The goal must be based on what the team can do and on what can be met. It is also essential to make sure that you are setting goals that are realistic and results-based. It is far better to set goals that are going to be attainable and reasonable rather than goals that are far outside the realm of reason.

Goals that are relevant to the business, the team, and the results that you are looking for can make a big difference in how easy it is to meet those goals and how easy it is to actually get the goal completed and working for you for your team overall.

Time-Bound

The last thing you need to consider is the time frame for your goal. Though a long-term goal is a good thing, and it does help keep your team working toward it, goals that are too long-term can harm your overall goal. It is important to create goals that are based on a realistic time frame that will deliver results.

It is also essential to keep in mind that time is money, and the more time you invest in a goal, the more expensive the goal ends up being overall. When creating or setting a goal, it is important to consider the amount of time it is going to take to meet the goal, how many resources are going to be needed to meet the goal, and of course, how much effort your team is going to have to put forth to meet that goal and ultimately complete it.

If your goal is time-sensitive, it is also important to set those goals out to start with and make sure that the team is aware of the time constraint so that they can adjust the overall way they are working toward the goal and how they are working to attain it. Time constraints are often an enemy to goals, and if you are not managing your team and not managing your time, it can lead to your team not being able to reach goals and therefore meeting with potential failure.

Why are SMART Goals Important?

Setting goals that are well thought out, actionable and achievable, and very well organized can help set your team up for success rather than setting them up for failure. Taking time to set goals that are attainable and that have been thought out very well can make it so much easier for leaders to actually guide a team. SMART goals can make a huge difference in leadership.

While setting SMART goals helps your team, it can also make it easier for you, as a leader, to lead your team and help ensure that you are all on the same page and all are working toward the same goal and the same outcome. The right goals can make a huge difference, and taking the time to set SMART goals can mean the difference between a team that succeeds and one that struggles.

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