A New Twist on SMART Goals

Business man pointing to transparent board with text: Goals forThis is the season when many companies begin to prioritize strategies for the coming year. Those strategic plans usually involve setting goals for departments as well as individuals. But how much time do you really spend defining clear, measurable goals? Most leaders agree with the importance of setting goals, but many don’t take the time to work with their people to clearly develop goals and write them down. As a result, people tend to get caught in what I call an “activity trap” where they are busy working on projects—but not necessarily the most important projects.

We’ve all heard the term SMART goals. Let’s take a closer look at each of the elements in the SMART acronym, which we define as:

S = specific

M = motivating

A = attainable

R = relevant

T = trackable

Here’s the twist: I’m going to ask you to think of this familiar acronym in a new way—as STRAM. Why STRAM? Because the most effective way to write a goal statement is to start with the Specific and Trackable elements first.

  • The leader should describe the Specific goal and when or how often it needs to be accomplished.
  • Now the leader needs to make sure the goal is Trackable.  How will progress or performance be tracked or measured?

To give you an example, take a look at these two similar goal statements.

  1. Produce monthly financial reports.
  2. Submit accurate and timely financial reports on a bimonthly basis for the next 12 months as measured by end user feedback.

Which of these is the SMART goal? The second one. Why? The first is a goal statement, but it isn’t specific or trackable. The second goal statement provides precise outcomes for accurate and timely financials on a bimonthly basis. And the results will be measured by end user reports. So the second goal is specific and trackable.

Once the S and T are in place, the leader and team member can review the other three elements—Relevant, Attainable and Motivating—to check if the goal is truly SMART.

  • The leader has the responsibility for making the goal Relevant by ensuring the goal is important and that accomplishing the goal will make a difference to the organization.
  • The leader and team member work together to make sure the goal is Attainable. It must be realistic and achievable. When a goal is too difficult to accomplish, people may give up—but when it is too easy, people tend to procrastinate.
  • Ultimately, each team member determines for themselves if the goal is Motivating by considering if it is exciting and meaningful. Will it drain energy from their work experience or add enjoyment? Will the goal help build competence, relationships, or autonomy?

If you take some time up front to write SMART goals, your team will be able to focus on the most important projects that will support not only organizational goals but also each team member’s personal needs. This will create an energized and motivating work environment that supports both great results and human satisfaction—a winning combination for success.

Bringing Out the Magnificence in Your People

john-calipariLast week I had the chance to spend time with my old friend John Calipari, coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team. I met “Coach Cal” more than 35 years ago at the University of Massachusetts when he was on the coaching staff and I was a faculty member. Through the years, our careers have both been focused on leadership skills—mine emphasizing the development of business leaders and Cal’s concentrating on leading young athletes.

I believe that people want to grow and develop, and that the job of a great leader is to bring out the magnificence in people. I can’t think of a better example of this than Cal.

As I watched Cal working with his team, I asked him about his vision for them. He said, “We’re in the life skills business. We just happen to play basketball.” What a wonderful perspective. As a true servant leader, he wants to prepare these kids for life and help them accomplish their dreams. He realizes that leadership isn’t about him; it’s about the team he serves. In his book Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out, he challenges players to be the best they can be and to help bring out the best in their teammates.

Calipari has led his team to the elusive Final Four tournament three times in the past four years. They won it all in 2012. When asked about that NCAA Championship, he replied, “It isn’t about me. It’s about these 13 players.” He truly trusts that each player has a special skill, talent, or strength and that his job is to help each individual develop to his highest level.

Although Coach Cal starts out with a new team every season and works within a specific time frame, he uses the same skills to build team after successful team. Business leaders can learn a lot from Calipari’s leadership style. All leaders should spend time with their direct reports to understand their individual strengths, help each of them realize their brilliance, and bring out their magnificence. It’s an investment that serves the individual, the leader, and the organization.

What Great Leaders Know and Do: The Importance of Reinventing Continuously

My last couple of blogs were lifelong learning online adult education and knowledge building,dedicated to the first two elements of the SERVE model from The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, the first book Mark Miller and I coauthored, which was just released as a 10th Anniversary Edition.

For a quick review, the S in the model stands for See the Future and points out the importance of having a compelling vision for the future. The first E in the SERVE model stands for Engage and Develop Others. As a leader, you must be able to put the right people in the right roles, and you must invest in their development.

Now I want to tell you about the R in the SERVE model, which stands for Reinvent Continuously. This is a very big concept so I’ve broken it down into three components: Personal reinvention, systems and processes reinvention, and structural reinvention.

First, if you want to be a great leader, you must reinvent continuously on a personal level. Simply knowing how to do your job today doesn’t secure your success tomorrow. Read, watch videos, listen to audio books or podcasts, talk to colleagues, work with a mentor, or join associations or special interest groups. It’s important to keep up with this ever-changing world so that you can be innovative and bring new ideas that will respond to future challenges. In fact, Mark and I believe if you stop learning, you stop leading.

The second component applies to reinventing systems and processes. It’s critical to keep looking for ways to improve how your business is conducted. A key point to always remember, whether you are looking for ways to cut costs, reduce errors, increase speed to market, or simplify processes, is to talk to your people. Because they are in the trenches with your products, services, and customers, they often generate ideas executive leaders wouldn’t come up with. Getting input from people at all levels in your workplace also increases buy-in.

The third part is all about structural reinvention. Sometimes the way an organization is structured just doesn’t make sense for future growth. The best leaders recognize this and are willing to be flexible when it comes to restructuring teams, departments, and sometimes entire functions.

Continuous reinvention is a long-term quest. To get started on your reinvention journey, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my mentors?
  • What am I learning?
  • What systems or processes need to be changed to improve how we do business?
  • Do any teams, departments, or functions need restructuring to enhance future performance?

I’d love to hear from you. In what ways have you reinvented yourself, your workplace systems and processes, or your organization?

Do You Have the Heart of a Leader?

teach, inspire, motivate  - a collage of isolated words in vintaI’ve worked with thousands of leaders over the years and the most successful ones achieve results while acting with respect, care, and fairness for the well-being of everyone involved. Many companies put pressure on leaders to reach or surpass goals at any cost. But wise companies realize that leaders who can achieve results by creating a motivating work environment are the leaders who will sustain future success.

What’s the secret behind this kind of leader? I think truly effective leadership begins on the inside—with your heart. Leading from your heart is about leadership character and intention, which form the backbone of servant leadership. As a leader, you must ask yourself why you lead. Is it to serve or to be served? Answering this question in a truthful way is so important. You can’t fake being a servant leader. I believe that if leaders don’t get the heart right, they simply won’t ever become servant leaders.

The most persistent barrier to being a servant leader is a heart motivated by self-interest that looks at the world as a “give a little, take a lot” proposition. Leaders with hearts motivated by self-interest put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of those who are affected by their thoughts and actions. Leaders with a servant heart believe their role is to bring out the best in others. They thrive on developing people and helping them achieve their goals. They constantly try to find out what their people need to perform well. Being a servant leader is not just another management technique. It is a way of life for those with servant hearts.

The Power of Clear Values and a Trusting Environment

bigstock-Core-Values-Concept-53563306I’ve talked often of the importance that values play in achieving your corporate vision. Your purpose as an organization tells you where you want to go as a company, but values tell you how you are going to get there.  Clearly defined values provide guidelines for how to make daily decisions that impact your future success—or failure.

I recently had the chance to hear Stephen M.R. Covey talk about the impact that the lack of trust has on all of us, and I realized something: there is another layer of underlying behavior that impacts our ability to live by our values. Trust and values actually work hand in hand to create a strong company. Continue reading