With all of the buzz around self-development and performance management, SMART goals have been popular for several years. But why are SMART goals, and what is a SMART goal?
SMART is an acronym for the steps in setting an effective goal. However, even when following the steps, people can inadvertently set vague goals that aren't helpful. So, before we discuss the parts of a SMART goal (which may surprise you), let's talk about why SMART goals are essential.
SMART Goals are essential for 5 key reasons.
SMART goals bring focus
An effectively set SMART goal brings focus to what needs to be done. There are no questions of what the outcome should be or what should be happening at a particular time. This helps to ensure all of the energy required to meet the goal is available for accomplishing the task.
SMART goals require reflection
An effectively set SMART goal involves reflection. The person the SMART goal should really think about who the person this goal is for, is it vital, and how it fits in with the grand scheme of things.
SMART goals explain why
An effectively set SMART goal explains why. Simon Sinek talks about the importance of why in his book "Start with Why,” An appropriately set SMART goal will explain why it is crucial while leaving room for the how to be figured out later. It's vital for leaders, parents, and people looking to improve themselves or their business not to confuse a SMART goal, which explains what and why, with an action step, which defines how.
SMART goals improve performance
Because SMART goals bring focus they help improve performance. For a business owner, this looks like less time and payroll spent on getting to the end result. For a homemaker, it can show up as increased disposable income because waste is eliminated.
SMART goals improve competence
SMART goals improve competence by allowing the leader or mentor to observe, coach and correct specific behaviors. With a SMART goal, you can pinpoint exactly what action is being taken (or not taken) that is creating a certain result. With this knowledge, you can teach new skills or remove barriers that prevent people from reaching their full potential.
Now that we’ve discussed why a SMART goal is important, let’s end with what an effective SMART goal is. Following these steps will help you ensure you realize the benefits stated above.
S – SMART goals must be specific. In my training and coaching sessions, I like to demonstrate specific by asking people to "draw a figure that has three lines now. " 98% of people draw a triangle, but that is not my figure (I won't share my figure because I still use this illustration). For a goal to be specific, it must paint a clear picture in the mind of the person the goal is for. If I wanted a triangle drawn a better way to be specific about this would be to say "draw a figure that has three equal size lines, with two lines meeting at each of three points." See how you had to draw a picture of that in your mind before you did it on paper?
M – SMART goals must be motivating. It is important that an effective SMART goal has a motivating factor to it. This is why it's important to consider why while setting it. Why is it important for the person? Why is important to the family? Sticking with our triangle example, it may be important to draw a figure that has three equal lines that meet at three points because my daughter wants to draw a house and that’s the roof.
A – SMART goals must be action oriented. In other words, you must put an action word in the goal. If I tell my daughter she needs to “have” a figure that has three equal lines that meet at three points, there is nothing for her to do. Without action, a goal is just a dream.
R – SMART goal must be relevant. This is related to motivating but takes it a little further. Being motivated to do something doesn't make it relevant. My daughter may be motivated to draw a house, but if her homework is addition, it isn't a relevant goal. Remember, SMART goals should explain why and bring focus. Drawing the triangle would be relevant if my daughter wanted to draw a house to complete her diagram of things in a neighborhood.
T – Finally, SMART goals must be track-able. This component keeps you focused and is also the component that helps build competence. It must include a completion time as well. Sticking with our triangle example, I can tell I need to teach my daughter how to use a ruler if she draws lines of different sizes. Or I need to explain what a point is because her lines don’t touch. The time helps me to determine when to check in and when the final product should materialize.
An effective SMART goal for our triangle would look like this:
Kamren, “draw a figure that has three equal lines that meet at three points, in the next 5 minutes. This will be the roof to the house for your neighborhood diagram.”
Now, you try writing a SMART goal of your own.