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Setting Effective SMART Goals

Setting goals gives us purpose and direction for our efforts. Whether on an individual or team level, goal setting is the first step in the path towards achievement.

But it should be just that - a path. Simply conceptualising an aspiration is not enough. How will you get there? What steps will you take to walk the path and arrive at the objective?

Here is where SMART goals are invaluable. SMART is an acronym for a system of defining and achieving your aspirations. It is a trusted framework for accomplishing any goal - from small projects to organisational initiatives. Learn about setting effective SMART goals for yourself and your team.

diary on a table with coffee

S is for Specific

A vague goal is unlikely to be accomplished, even if you have all the right intentions. Specificity, on the other hand, provides clarity. A specific goal lays the groundwork for relevant action items and milestones. Consider the differences between these vague and specific goals:

  • Vague goal - Increase sales in Q2.

  • Specific goal - Increase sales in Q2 by 15% by reaching out to a new audience segment with sales calls, an email campaign and social media targeted ads.

Both of these examples share the same motivation. The second example, however, provides the structure for achieving the goal.

Here is a helpful checklist with “W questions” to ensure precision. Ask yourself:

  • Who - who will be involved and which roles will they play?

  • What - what tools, techniques or outside resources are needed?

  • Where - where will the work be accomplished? (This can be a physical or virtual location, and may not be applicable.)

  • Why - why is the goal important?

M is for Measurable

Measuring a goal is not a straightforward binary evaluation of whether the goal was met or not. Regularly evaluating progress increases the likelihood of long-term success. It also provides a tangible mean to determine goal effectiveness in nuanced ways.

  1. First, you will need to establish metrics. Consider which quantifiable measures you will use to judge performance. Let’s use the specific goal example above about increasing sales in Q2. It would be difficult to measure success if the metric was to “gain more responses from targeted ads.” Rather, use a quantifiable metric, such as “increasing the conversion rate from targeted ads by 30%.”

2. Second, have regular meetings with your working group. This creates the opportunity to discuss roadblocks, propose solutions, and assess overall progress. Meetings can come in the form of regular status updates - such as on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the nature of the project. Typically, meetings regarding short-term and concrete tasks will occur more frequently. Conversely, big picture strategy sessions would happen occasionally - say every month or quarter.

A is for Achievable

Nothing demotivates like an unrealistic goal. Meet with your team to establish goals and discuss the “W questions” mentioned above. If the goal is beyond the abilities of your team, even when factoring in that skill sets will expand during the project, then readjust the goal. Get them onboard in sharing your vision, but hear them out if they have concerns.

On the other end of the spectrum, setting effective SMART goals means not choosing ones that are too easy for your group to meet. This does not produce the growth that benefits your team. Aiming too low can also lead to unnecessary apprehension with future complicated objectives. In essence, smart leaders will strike the right balance in setting goals that are challenging but attainable.

R is for Relevant

This may seem like a no-brainer, but team goals should align with larger organisational objectives. Double-check your goals, and if necessary, consider minor adjustments for improved synergy with company initiatives.

Using the specific goal example again, let’s say that the company has prioritised creating long-term customer relationships over single-time sales. In this case, less time and money may be put towards targeted ads and more resources toward sales calls and emails campaigns that are more personal and can lead to customer loyalty.

T is for Time

“Time and tide wait for no man,” so the famous Chaucer quote goes.

The inescapable reality of time can seem a crushing foe, but when it comes to setting goals, make it your friend. Setting effective SMART goals means they will all be time-bound, including starting and ending dates. This creates an outline from which smaller assignments can be scheduled, and metrics to accurately measure success can be established. In other words, the time aspect of SMART goals underlies all the other parts.

It's important to celebrate achieved milestones. Push your team towards more demanding goals along the way. Sequencing smaller goals to escalate in difficulty can build the right momentum to meet your ultimate win.

Empowering your Team with the Tools for Goal Success

A goal-setting exercise done right, which considers the big “W questions,” may reveal that your team is lacking certain competencies to deliver on the main objective.

Do they need training in Microsoft apps? Time management? Prioritisation? Project management? Customer service? Communication skills?

You name it, Priority Management can provide the training to bridge the skills gap. Our instructive programs are entirely customised for your business and team needs. Our goal with every training is long-term positive behavioural change so your team becomes and remains more efficient and productive, having the perfect foundations to set those SMART goals. Find out about our courses here.


Priority Management is a worldwide training company with 55 offices in 15 countries. We have successfully trained more than two million graduates in Priority workshops. Our programs help companies and people be more effective and manage their workflow in and out of the office by providing tools, processes and discipline. Simply put - A Better Way To Work! Clients range from Fortune 500 companies, small-to-medium businesses and government/military employees.

Click Here to learn more about how Priority can help you and your team Work Smart, develop essential management skills and the competencies to....make life and work better and happier!

This blog has been sourced by Priority Management International and edited by Priority Management London.


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