#008 - An overview of SMART Goals and Action Steps, ways to help YOU, the new leader, not only get things done, but get them done WELL. SMART Goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Hello again! Welcome to Keys for New Leaders! This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but my friends call me Charlie, and that’s YOU, my friend! I’m so glad you’re here! If you’ve already subscribed, thank you so much! If you haven’t, now’s your chance. Please take a moment to subscribe – or “follow” on Apple Podcasts – to make sure you get notice of the latest episodes as they’re published. I’m planning to publish about one per week.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about SMART goals and action steps, ways to help YOU, the new leader, not only get things done, but get them done well. SMART goals are great tools. I wish I had known about them years ago. They would have saved me a lot of time and worry and guesswork. I’m glad that I can pass some of this along to YOU, my friend. If you find it helpful, then I’ve done my job.
Remember those “C” values we talked about in Episode 3? Here’s a very quick review: we talked about the importance of staying in sync with your values, and identified 7 values as examples, all words beginning with the letter “C.” Those 7 values are: Credibility, Clarity, Confidence, Creativity, Courage, Calling, and Commitment.
YOU, as leader, must keep yourself and your team on task to complete the goals you have set or have been set for you, and you must have ACTION STEPS in place to achieve those goals. Goals without action steps aren’t really goals – they’re only good wishes.
Setting and accomplishing goals is very important in the for-profit sector. Your job may very likely depend on it! In volunteer organizations, it’s often the place where everything begins to unravel, and things just don’t get done. Some ACCOUNTABILITY is what’s needed … but we’ll tackle that in another episode.
Setting workable goals is where some of those “C” values begin to pop up again. Let’s take CLARITY, for example. If the goal isn’t CLEAR to your team or committee, just what IS it that you are asking of them? If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re sure to end up somewhere else!
It's also essential that each member of the team knows CLEARLY what the goal is – and that’s a good way for YOU to enhance your CREDIBILITY and CONFIDENCE and COMMITMENT as leader.
One of the best ways I’ve found to set clear and achievable goals and action steps for YOU and YOUR TEAM is to create SMART goals.
Have you heard of those? SMART goals are not a new concept in business or education, but it may be new to volunteer organizations. Creating SMART goals really helps everyone know specifically what the goal is and when and how that goal will be accomplished. There are many helpful articles and study guides available on the Internet. What we are going to do in this episode is give you some of the main points, and trust that you’ll look into other books and articles that go into some depth about what SMART goals are and how to use them. It takes awhile, so give yourself plenty of time to learn to use these SMART goals. They really DO make a big difference!
The S-M-A-R-T in SMART goals is an acronym. S stands for Specific. M stands for Measurable. A is for Attainable. R for Realistic, and T stands for Timely. Let’s go over each one.
A SPECIFIC goal is actually easier to reach than a vague or general one. A SPECIFIC goal is well defined and is clear to everyone. It states clearly and specifically what you want to accomplish. For example, if you say your goal is to “lose some weight,” that’s not at all specific. If you say that your goal is to lose ten pounds, now that’s more specific. If you say that your goal is to lose ten pounds in ten weeks, that begins to get even more specific, and begins to include the ”T” or Timely part of the goal. See how that works? As you add some of the other parts, you can get pretty specific about that goal of losing ten pounds. Some sets of SMART goals use different words for each of the letters. “S” stands for SPECIFIC, and it can also mean SIGNIFICANT, STRETCHING, SYSTEMATIC, or SHIFTING.
A MEASURABLE goal is one that asks how you will know whether you are making progress toward your goal, and whether your goal is really being met. For example, if you say “I want to be a good writer,” that’s a nice thought, but it isn’t a measurable goal. If you say “I will write two pages of an article each day,” that IS measurable. Let’s go back to that goal of losing ten pounds. If you say “I will lose one pound per week for ten weeks,” now THAT is measurable – and SPECIFIC – and TIMELY. See how they begin to work together? “M” stands for MEASURABLE, and can also stand for MEANINGFUL, MOTIVATING, and MAGICAL.
An ATTAINABLE goal is one that you truly believe is reachable – BUT you must also build in the action steps that make the goal possible. If you goal is to climb Mt. Everest, you must then ask yourself if you have all the resources it will take to get you there. Obviously, you must plan all the necessary steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. To put it bluntly, if you don’t have the horses, don’t enter the race. There’s a good reason for being very careful and making very good plans when you ask yourself if the goal is truly attainable. When you commit to attaining a goal, you are sending a strong, positive self-image signal to yourself AND your team. You are telling yourself, “YES, we can and we WILL DO this.” You see yourself and your team reaching that goal, and you really DO begin to develop the necessary steps to get there. “A” is for ATTAINABLE, and also for ACTION-ORIENTED, ACCOUNTABILITY, ACCEPTABLE, and AGREED-UPON.
Next, your goal must be REALISTIC. It must be an objective toward which you are both WILLING and ABLE to work. A pie-in-the-sky goal is not a realistic goal at all. Let’s go back to that “lose 10 pounds” example. If you say that you want to lose 10 pounds in three days, is that REALISTIC? Probably not. And, since you’ve decided that it isn’t REALISTIC, you have signaled your brain to quit trying. Your brain believes what you just told it, and tells you to give up on that unrealistic goal. Yes, that really does happen! A REALISTIC goal is one that can be reached within the availability of your resources, knowledge, and time. “R” is for REALISTIC, and it also includes RELEVANT, REASONABLE, RESULTS-ORIENTED, and REMARKABLE.
The ”T” in SMART goals means TIMELY or TIME-RELATED. Have you built in enough TIME to achieve the goal? A goal must be grounded within a time frame that sends a clear message to everyone when the goal will be completed. A goal without a time frame is just a wish. For example if you said you want to lose 10 pounds in the next 10 weeks, that sends a message to your brain that you must get busy and start working toward that goal. The Time-related part of the goal must also be REALISTIC – not too short a time, and not too long. “T” is for TIMELY or TIME-RELATED, and can also mean TANGIBLE – can you experience the complete goal with one of your senses? Can you see the results? Can you touch it? Taste it? Smell it? Hear it? A TANGIBLE goal is also more REALISTIC – and ATTAINABLE – and MEASURABLE – and SPECIFIC. See how they all work together?
I’ve had a lot of experience with SMART goals, but I didn’t know it at the time. Many years ago, I was a high school band director. Football games were on Friday nights, and the band had to have a halftime show ready. Well, it takes about an hour of rehearsal to get one minute of show ready, so I had to plan things very carefully so that the band was ready for the show. I had to teach them the music and the drills or formations, so I had to be very SPECIFIC with my instructions. The results definitely were MEASURABLE to me, to the band members, and the audience. What I planned for them must be ATTAINABLE in a week, so I had to plan what we could do REALISTICALLY, and we had to accomplish it all in one week’s TIME. I really didn’t know about SMART goals at that time, but later found I had been doing them all along.
SMART goals do work! Try one on for size. Take just ONE of the goals for yourself or your team, and make it a SMART goal. Write down the goal, then ask yourself: How is this goal SPECIFIC … MEASURABLE … ATTAINABLE … REALISTIC … and TIMELY? As you or your team develop goals for the coming year, ask yourself and your team members how each goal is SPECIFIC … MEASURABLE … REALISTIC … ATTAINABLE … TIMELY. Take the time NOW, at this stage of the game, to be very precise. The more clearly and precisely you apply the SMART categories to your goals, the more those goals get SMART-er. And so do YOU, my friend!
After you have developed the SMART goals, another vital set of steps is developing the ACTION STEPS that help you achieve those goals. They are the steps you must take to get the job done and the goal met. This is a challenging part of the goal setting process, but it cannot be short-changed if you are to have effective SMART goals. If your goal is to achieve “X” then what SPECIFIC steps must you take to help you get to “X”? Are these steps also Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely?
Once you have identified the action steps, put them in order. What’s the first step you must take to start the process? … and the next? … and the next? Be very Specific here, and make sure everyone knows WHO will do WHAT and by WHEN. The action steps all have to work in sequence and in a timely manner to reach your goal.
One way I have found effective is to “reverse engineer” the action steps – that is, start from the completed goal and work backwards to the point of taking that first step. Imagine this: we have just completed the goal. Congratulations and High Fives all around! Now, what did we have to do just before that goal was completed? And what was the step we had to take before that? And before that one? And so on – back to the beginning. It sounds crazy, but it does work!
Here's an example of reverse engineering that I used for many years: the marching band. We had a halftime show to perform on Friday night. What had to happen on Friday morning? Rehearsing all the parts of the show, and then doing a final run-through. Thursday – rehearsing parts of the drills with music. Wednesday – rehearsing different parts of the drills with music. Tuesday – practice marching routines without instruments. Monday – rehearse music without marching. Well, there was a lot more to it than that, but I think you get the idea. Your goal will all come together if you carefully build in the action steps to get you to the finish line. I used the same “reverse engineering” when I taught college classes. I started with the end of the semester, stating to myself and on the course outline what we would accomplish in the class, then worked backwards to the first class meeting. And then I could plan each class session to make sure we were on track to the final goal. And it worked!
Let’s use that stubborn 10 pounds again. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks, what are the Action Steps you must do to help make that happen? Diet … Exercise … Weigh-ins … Progress Charts … and so on. Then, you need more specifics: What about your diet do you need to change? What form of exercise and how many minutes or reps per day? And so on – get the idea? Then – work backwards from the 10th week. What must you accomplish by week 9 to be on target? By week 8? And so on. These action steps help break down a complex project into smaller, more do-able bites. Completing a complex project or achieving a challenging goal is just like eating an elephant – just take it a bite at a time! Just for fun, I’ve posted an article on my blog called “How to Eat an Elephant.” Take a look and have a laugh or two. Here’s the link:
Creating SMART goals and Action Steps takes time and very careful planning, but oh, the results you can get! This is just a brief overview of the process. It may seem like an impossible task, but as you and your team get into it, it’s amazing how ideas begin to click and things begin to fall into place faster. There are a lot of good materials about SMART goals available for your study and practice so dig right in!
Here are some questions for you. No right or wrong answers, just YOUR answers. Here we go:
1. What’s the most important goal you or your team must accomplish in the next six months?
2. How can you rewrite this as a SMART goal? How is it SPECIFC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, REALISTIC and TIMELY?
3. What’s the FIRST step you must take to begin reaching that goal, and WHEN will you take it?
Rather than a SPECIAL KEY this week, let’s call it a SMART Key, and that is the Key of “G” for GOOD luck, and GET GOING! I know you can do it!
In the next episode, we’ll focus on what must follow these SMART Goals and Action Steps, and that’s ACCOUNTABILITY. How we hold ourselves and our team members accountable, both individually and collectively, is often the big difference between success or failure. Let’s make sure we’re on the success side, shall we?
Until then, thanks for listening, and stay safe and well, my friend.