The creation of outstanding performance is a shared responsibility between you and the employee(s) you have been entrusted to manage. Are you seeing the results you want from your investment in your staff?  There are things they need to bring to the table, like prior training and a can-do attitude. But your part of the performance equation is to structure the work so your employees can execute effectively. You want better performance? Get SMART!

To start off we’ll make this all about YOU and the impact of SMART goals, and let’s use a simple example outside of the workplace to illustrate. It’s that time of year when you hear friends and family and colleagues say they want to “get in shape for the beach.” What in the heck does “in shape” mean? A coach colleague of ours jokes, “I’m already in shape – a sphere is a shape!” Even if you’ve not joined in the beach body goal, there are lessons to be learned in this example. If you want to make it happen you need to set goals, and goals that are Specific to increase the chances that you’ll achieve them.

Digging a bit deeper with this example, let’s get Specific. What’s your definition of “in shape”? Is it a certain number of pounds or a certain percentage of body fat? Is it the ability to walk to the end of the driveway to pick up the mail without being out of breath? Unless you define “in shape” in specific terms it won’t be Measurable and you will never feel finished. You won’t know whether it’s Achievable, Realistic or what Timeline you will need to accomplish it. (See what we did with the SMART right there?? The bolded words that make an acronym? Slick, eh?)

Here are some examples of “get in shape” specific goals as defined by results

  • Weigh 130 healthy pounds by 8/31/17.
  • Bench press 200 pounds by 10/1/17.
  • Finish a half-marathon by November 30, 2017.

Goals defined by specific activities at work

Sometimes you don’t know ahead of time what level or even the type of activity that is going to generate your desired result. Or perhaps you know that the targets you have set are so long-term that they won’t keep you on track right now, today. You manage these scenarios by defining your ultimate desired outcome (RBG or Really Big Goal), and then you set one or more supporting goals around the activities that you predict will get you the results you want.

Let’s say this a different way.  Activity goals on their own aren’t necessarily the most effective goals. If you allow your focus to be solely on activity you can become incredibly busy and still go nowhere.  Activity goals need to be evaluated regularly within the context of the RBG to see whether they are the right ones in the right volume and moving you closer to your desired outcome. When you’ve aligned them with your RBG and you’re measuring progress regularly against that, activity-based goals can do the job well for you.

Here are some examples:

  • Make 20 drop-by sales calls to primary care physicians’ offices each week, starting Friday, June 16th.
  • Meet with each of my direct reports biweekly, starting July 1, 2017.
  • Attend 2 conferences per fiscal year to stay current with industry trends, starting September, 2017.

You’ll notice that the activity goals have no finish lines – they have only start dates. If you want to build your confidence (and your accountability) you might want to consider setting activity goals with evaluation dates for a month at a time. Or if you expect that they require relatively difficult adaptations in behavior for you, set them a week at a time. You get to define what short term and long-term goal time frames are. Match them to your level of motivation and the degree of difficulty of the goal for you.

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