Arrow on target

The SMART Goals (or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound Goals) concept came out over 30 years ago. Think about all of the things that have been developed in the last 30 years and then think about if we’re still trying to set goals in the same way.

I actually think SMART Goals are a good framework for setting and achieving goals. It provides a real, understandable and researched formula for what actually can drive people to achieve. That is after all the reason we set goals. We want to think about big things and actually accomplish them. Certainly, 30 years old or not, there is a very strong case for being Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

If those are the characteristics of good goals, the nature of business now is on the doing. But it is not enough to set goals that will drive a person, a team, a project or an organization forward. You have to put your performance where your plans are in order to ideally reach and exceed your goals.

That’s why SMART Goals only go so far—the parameters are there, but the execution comes down to an individual or a team. And that gets to the heart of the unique ways people actually think about their goals. Neuroscience and the way our brains work play a role in everything we do, from the way we communicate to the way we process ideas to the way we put our plans into action (and hypothetically, achieve our goals).

Relating smart goal achievement back to the brain, means that the different ways people think will focus on different aspects of the goal—but all of these are critical. Luckily, whether employees, managers or leaders have a preference in these aspects, they can develop the skills to make it happen. Or…you reach out to others whose thinking comes naturally in areas that your’s does not.

Think about the Analytical aspect of goal setting—goals aren’t just about getting things done on time.

  • Analytical goal setting and achievement means putting quantifiable metrics in place
  • Analytical goal setting starts with research and builds in ways to analyze success factors along the way not just at the end
  • Analytical goal setting challenges conventional assumptions and asks if enough data is in place to achieve what you need to

The Structural component of goal setting is about creating and sticking to a process

  • Structural goal setting is practical and you’ll know when you reach them because they’re even more than specific—they’re dialed-in and clear to all
  • Structural goal setting has benchmarks and progress markers that require checking in and recalibration if necessary
  • Structural goal setting achievement happens on time, because a schedule with contingencies has been put in place

Social goal setting is dependent on people and relationships—in today’s business world, nobody accomplishes goals by themselves anymore.

  • The Social goal setting paradigm thinks first about who will be affected by a particular goal and why
  • The Social goal setting ensures that from the get-go, the right team is in place and individuals have resources (the human kind) to achieve it
  • The Social goal setting process ensures that success is felt by all stakeholders, which have been outlined from the get-go

The Conceptual element of goals is setting the big-picture and achieving it

  • Conceptual goal setting needs to go beyond simple achievement and into a broader perspective of Why they’re critical and Where they’ll take you
  • Conceptual goal setting starts with the end result and uses the Structural and Analytical process to fill in the details and the metrics—but the vision is the big win
  • Conceptual goal setting processes time and resources for investigating what is most relevant and reframing the process or even the goal to match new ideas

Communicating, Implementing and Tracking goals are the action items—every person needs to exhibit the behaviors that will drive achievement.

Expressiveness plays a big role in setting smart goals

  • Communicate the vision and the process via different methods—some will need to talk it through whereas others will simply take in the information before responding.

Assertiveness ensures that achieving smart goals happens

  • Not everyone will drive forward on goals aggressively…and that is okay. Provide room for peacekeeping to ensure that goals can stay on a healthy, conflict-free track. Allow driving people to keep things moving quickly and forcefully.

Flexibility defines the achievement process of smart goals

  • Do goals need to stay on track? Rely on those who prefer defined situations to ensure it happens. Should goals be changed to reflect new information? Rely on those who welcome change to lead that charge.
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