Establishing SMART Goals

In today’s dynamic business environment, SMART goals are important in providing focus and direction for all employees.

Smart goals- Training Magazine

Every coach, parent, and teacher does it.

Every manager and team leader does it.

They establish goals for themselves and others.

Assume you are a manager and have 10 direct reports.

Start by understanding what your boss wants to accomplish. What are their goals? Your goals and those of your employees need to align with what your boss wants to achieve.

Goals clarify what’s important and what needs to be accomplished. If possible, show employees what the desired output looks like. Give them a concrete example, so they know exactly what’s desired.

Many companies operate on a calendar basis and establish goals for the next 12 months. Some companies set goals every quarter or every six months. In today’s dynamic business environment, goals need to be reviewed and revised as needed.

Management Style

You can use any of the three management styles to establish goals.

  • Directing Style—You assign goals to employees. Here is a list of your goals for the next six months. Do you have any questions?
  • Discussing Style—You ask questions and solicit your employee’s input. You collaborate and together establish goals. What should our sales goals be for the year?
  • Delegate Style—You empower the employee to create his own set of goals for a given time period. I want you to identify your top seven to 10 goals for the next 12 months. Let’s meet on Friday at 10 am to review your list.

Effective Goals

The acronym, SMART, often is used to highlight the characteristics of effective goals.

  • Specific—Pinpoint exactly what you want to be completed. Vague goals such as “improve quality” or “cut costs” are open to interpretation and create confusion. Specific goals such as “by October 1, cut overhead costs in your department by 17 percent” are specific and measurable.
  • Meaningful—Your goal is to always have an accurate count of the number of Zoom meetings you have attended in the last three months. Now that goal will really get employees fired up and energized.
  • Accepted—Goals must be accepted by those who have to work hard to achieve them.
  • Reviewed—Conditions change. Goals need to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
  • Time-bounded—Specific dates and times provide focus and reduce confusion. By July 30, increase sales by 20 percent. Goals without deadlines have a way of slipping away.

One other aspect of effective goal setting is establishing single-point accountability. Each goal should be assigned to one employee. Having multiple people responsible for a goal can create confusion and finger-pointing down the road. I thought he was going to do it.

Managers also need to consider if there are any organizational obstacles that may prevent the employee from achieving the goal.

Focus and Direction

Clearly defined goals and timeframes provide focus and direction for all employees. Goals that are meaningful and attainable create buy-in and motivation for those who need to make it happen.

Paul B. Thornton
Paul B. Thornton conducts seminars and workshops on alignment, leadership, and implementing change. He is also an author and speaker. His e-books are available at Amazon. • Is Your Organization Aligned? • Leadership-Perfecting Your Approach and Style • Leadership Case Studies He can be contacted at