Go Beyond SMART: 2 Ways to Help Employees Create Better Goals

Posted by Susan Cullen on February 18, 2019

2 Incredible Alternative Goal Methodologies to Help Your Employee Create Better GoalsGoal setting. It's a must in any endeavor. As the late great motivational speaker and writer Zig Ziglar said, "if you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."

As a business leader, of course you want your employees to set and achieve great goals. So what does it mean to aim at--and hit--great goals? Goals that will light a fire under your employees, goals that will push them to dream bigger, reach farther, and achieve more than they thought possible?

One of the most famous goal setting formats is known as SMART Goal setting. Many people of all ages and industries use this model to craft goals for themselves and their employees. But is there a better way to create smarter goals for your employees? Of course there are. But first, you need to understand what, exactly, SMART goals are, why people use them, and what they can and cannot do for you.

What is a SMART goal?

SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

  • Specific: Goals need to be specific if you want to have a chance at achieving them. Saying "I want to make a lot of money" is not a goal, but "I want to make $1 million" is. How, then, do you make your goals more specific? Ask yourself these questions:
      • What EXACTLY do I want to achieve?
      • Where? When? How? With whom?
      • What limitations and conditions do I need to consider or set for myself?
      • Why exactly do I want to achieve this particular goal? Are there alternatives to this goal that I would consider pursuing?
  • Measurable: For a goal to be achievable, you need to know when you've achieved it. In other words, you need a way to measure progress. You have to have concrete evidence that you are moving towards your goal, evidence that tells you when you have achieved that goal. "Being a better salesman" is not measurable. But "closing X number of sales" is. Define the parameters your goal by selecting how you will measure it.
  • Attainable: Before you begin any endeavor, you have to consider whether it is realistic. If you don't have the ability, time, or money to reach a certain goal, you might as well not set it. That doesn't mean you can't shoot for the moon, if you decide you really have the mental and financial capital to go for it, but beware of the potential for failure and demoralization and choose wisely.
  • Relevant: Any goal you set needs to be relevant to your overall vision. If your business aims to provide a certain service for your client, it makes sense to measure client satisfaction through refund rates or questionnaires, but not to try to compete with a non-related product-based industry in sales figures. To set smart goals, first ask yourself what is the mission of your organization, and then create every subsequent goal to align with that.
  • Timely: It doesn't matter what goal you set if you don't create time boundaries to keep people moving. Any company can make a million dollars, given a hundred years to do it, but in order to keep the doors open, certain companies may need to make that much money in a far shorter time frame. What about you? What kind of reasonable timelines do your goals require?

Better Alternatives to SMART Goals

SMART goals are pretty clever, all right. But they aren't the be all and end all in goal setting methodologies. Several other goal setting models can end up being far more suitable, or can supplement the basic SMART goal framework to help you and your employees become more motivated and productive at work, including:

The OKR Model

OKR, which stands for Objectives and Key Results is a business goal setting model that helps businesses establish ambitious outcome goals to track over each quarter. OKR was first developed in the 1970s by Andy Grove, CEO of Intel, and is a key focus at companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Spotify, Dropbox, and more.

The OKR formula involves:

  1. Setting an objective: What do you want to have accomplished? Think of memorable, qualitative descriptions of what you want to achieve. Make it short, inspirational, and challenging.

  2. Setting key results: How are you going to get it done? This is a set of quantitative metrics (read: it must have a number) that allow you to measure progress toward the objective. Each objective should have 2-5 key results for best memorability.

OKR goals are measurable, flexible, and aspirational and are generally established by leadership, not tied to compensation. OKR goals are ambitious and can be understood as a kind of evolved KPI, since they are more specific and have quantifiable results.

The best way to create an OKR goal is by the John Doerr formula, which reads: "I will X, as measured by Y." Where X is the objective and Y is the set of key results.

One of the key benefits of OKR is that it helps create alignment throughout the organization, ensuring that every employee has clear priorities and is moving in the same direction in a constant rhythm. OKR doesn't just focus on WHAT you want to do, it includes a way to measure achievement, which helps businesses in a fast-paced constantly-changing business landscape to adapt quickly while encouraging innovation. This is why it's such a powerful alternative or supplement to the traditional SMART goal.

CLEAR goals

Another goal methodology with a catchy name, CLEAR goals are designed with the team in mind. CLEAR stands for:

  • Collaborative: CLEAR goals should empower employees to work together well.
  • Limited: Goals must be limited in scope and duration.
  • Emotional: Goals must resonate emotionally with employees, to bring out their energy and passion.
  • Appreciable: Break larger goals into smaller ones to be accomplished more quickly and easily.
  • Refinable: Give yourself the flexibility to refine and modify goals as the context or situation changes.

The CLEAR goal formula aims to create, as the name indicates, clear, motivating goals that help teams move together in the right direction while accounting for and adapting to the volatility of the outside environment and market.

So how do you pick the right goal format for your business?

The key to figuring out which goal format works best for you is to consider the context in which you work. How large is your team? What kind of business are you running and what is its ultimate goal? What type of product or service do you offer and what is needed to create the highest quality version of that product or service on the market? Only then can you tell which of these goal setting methodologies are right for you.

For more information on goal setting models and taking your business and leadership abilities to the next level, check out our Foundations of Leadership program.

We also offer it as a virtual program

Topics: Employee Development


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