How To Set SMART Goals - Start With The End In Mind
Setting worthy SMART goals can be a real challenge. SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time framed. For a lot of people, getting to goal statements that meet those criteria is tough. So where to start in this process of establishing SMART goals?
Setting worthy SMART goals can be a real challenge. SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time framed. For a lot of people, getting to goal statements that meet those criteria is tough.
So where to start in this process of establishing SMART goals?
Start with the three to five most important things that cannot be left to chance - the things that are most important - the things that action and focus can make happen - right now.
Then identify the ideals. The very best outcome, the best that could happen, the best possible solution. Write down, in detail, what you believe to be the ideal solution to a problem, the ideal spouse or partner, the ideal vacation, the ideal boss, the ideal client, the ideal outcome of a sales campaign. These are the "perfect world" descriptions that we all have about many different things. We're reluctant to share them - we don't want to be seen as dreamers. And yet, creating the ideal - whatever it may be - is the first step to goal setting and accomplishment
The following is the process we use in helping clients define goals to use in people selection. It's an example of how starting with the ideal and then working to a clear set of expectations works - in all kinds of goal areas.
The very first step is to have the client stakeholders state the goal for the selection process- a SMART goal. The next step is to create a model of the ideal candidate. Start by listing the key accountabilities for the position, then the technical skills, attributes, education, experience, behaviors, values and personal skills the ideal candidate would have.
When that process is completed ask if anyone has ever met a person who could fill the complete description just developed. None ever say they have. But taking the time to arrive at this description is crucial. Without agreeing to the ideal the chances of arriving at the best selection decision are very low.
What the ideal does is set a bar to focus on and strive to reach. Without it everything is relative. "They are the best we could find, given the circumstances." Those words describe the rationalization used to make some perfectly awful selection decisions.
At the same time that it's critical to start with the ideal, it's also critical to not let the ideal become the expectation. As Peter Senge states in The Fifth Discipline, "Scratch a cynic and you'll find a person who made the mistake of letting their ideals become their expectations."
When using this process to identify candidate requirements, once the ideal is established, most stakeholder groups are tempted to make all of the requirements top priorities. That's unrealistic - it's also a copout. Making everything a top priority is just a way of avoiding tough decisions. This is when the hard work of prioritizing the must have's, the want to have's and the nice to have's is done. This is always the toughest step in the process - regardless of the type of goal involved. Different stakeholders have different views of the requirements - and different views of the desired outcome. But when prioritizing and valuing is done, a clear set of expectations emerges, and everyone can work on the same page - and increase the probability of successfully hiring the right person for the right job by thirty percent to fifty percent. Most organizations would kill for that kind of return on the level of investment involved. The same kind of increase in effectiveness can happen in other goal areas as well.
And the door remains open to modifications based on the experience and action of striving to meet the goal. And modifications happen frequently. But since the process started with the ideal, modifications are kept at a high level. The next time there is a situation requiring action, create the habit of thought of starting by identifying the ideal - the best possible outcome. Then use that to set goals. Starting with that ideal results in accomplishments far beyond what might otherwise be achieved.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Cox helps his clients select and develop teams and talent. He focuses on helping leaders and emerging leaders define and develop their skills and talents using goals. He can be reached at http://www.coxconsultgroup.com , or at firstname.lastname@example.org