A Fresh Look at SMART Goals

If you are familiar with SLII®, our company’s leadership model for powering inspiring leaders, you know that effective SLII® leaders are highly skilled in the two primary areas of leadership behavior: Directive and Supportive.

We define Directive leadership behaviors as “actions that shape and control what, how, and when things are done” and Supportive leadership behaviors as “actions that develop mutual trust and respect, resulting in increased motivation and confidence.”

In my last blog post, I wrote about Listening, a Supportive behavior. This time I’ll be refreshing your outlook on Setting SMART Goals, a Directive behavior.

What is a SMART Goal?

The concept of SMART goals has been around for decades. Different people and organizations may have slightly different ways of explaining the letters in the SMART acronym. Our twist on this familiar concept is the order in which you should write the goals, which is: S, then T, then R, A, and M. I’ll explain as we continue.

S is for Specific. A goal should state exactly what you want to accomplish and when you want to accomplish it.

T is for Trackable and Timebound. Performance standards, including a timeline, must be in place to enable frequent tracking of each goal. Are you making observable progress toward goal achievement? What will a good job look like?

So first, you decide exactly what you want to achieve—S—and then determine how you are going to track or measure progress toward goal accomplishment—T.

Once the S and T are in place, use the other three SMART criteria—the R, A, and M—to check if the goal is truly SMART.

Relevant. Is this goal important? Will it make a difference in your life, your job, or your organization?

Attainable. A goal has to be reasonable. It’s great to stretch yourself, but don’t make a goal so difficult that it’s unattainable or you will lose commitment.

Motivating. For you to do your best work, a goal needs to tap into either what you enjoy doing or what you know you will enjoy doing in the future.

Example #1: A Personal Goal

The first example is from the book Fit at Last: Look and Feel Better Once and for All, which I wrote with Tim Kearin, my good friend and personal trainer. Although my initial goal wasn’t exactly SMART, it was specific: I envisioned going to my 50th class reunion at Cornell and hearing my classmates say, “You’re looking good!” My less critical goals were to be able to do the limbo and to learn how to tap dance. (Again, maybe not so SMART.)

Fortunately, Tim helped me write the following goal. It’s rather long but it is SMART and, I’ll admit, a big improvement over the goals I had written.

SMART Goal: In one year, through an effective eating plan and exercise program with guidance, support, and progress tracking from Tim Kearin, I will weigh less than 200 pounds. I will gain 1 inch in height through posture-specific exercises, reduce my neck circumference and chest circumference by 1 inch, reduce my waist measurement by 5 inches and my hip measurement by 4 inches—and get rid of my “fat pants”.

This goal is Specific (we knew what we wanted to happen and by when); Trackable/Timebound (I knew Tim would keep great records and set a reasonable deadline for completion); Relevant (health is more important than almost anything else in life); Attainable (I knew I needed help and Tim was the perfect trainer for me, and our numbers were realistic); and Motivating (I looked forward to feeling better, looking better, living longer, and having healthy numbers for future doctor visits).

Example #2 – Career-Related Goal

The second example is taken from a recent Indeed.com article and involves a person with their eye on a promotion.

SMART Goal: I will earn a promotion to senior customer service representative by completing the required training modules in three months and applying for the role at the end of next quarter.

This goal is Specific (the person knows exactly what they want and when); Trackable/ Timebound (completing training in three months and applying for job the following quarter); Relevant (important to rise to a new level and make a difference in income and stature); Attainable (training first will provide skills to qualify them for the promotion); and Motivating (exciting career move, new challenge, higher pay).

Example #3: An Organizational Goal

The third example of an effective SMART goal is taken from FitSmallBusiness.com regarding employee training.

SMART Goal: Confirm that 90% of team members have completed new inventory management software training by the end of third quarter.

This goal is Specific (the company knows exactly what they need and when they want it); Trackable/Timebound (90 people will need to complete training, deadline set for end of third quarter); Relevant (important for entire team to merge together to new platform, which is more efficient than current platform); Attainable (majority of people have completed training, which is web-based and easily accessible); and Motivating (eager for better overall productivity, motivated to get the rest of the team trained).

Remember—all good performance starts with clear goals. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, there is very little chance you will get there. So whether it’s for your personal life, your work life, or your organization, make every goal a SMART goal. It’s the best way to ensure success!

Pay the PRICE to Make Good on Your New Year’s Resolution!

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? How are they working for you so far?

Every year I hear people say they are having a hard time motivating themselves to put their New Year’s resolutions into place. My first question is always “How many resolutions do you have?” The answer usually goes something like this: “Well, this year I want to lose weight, exercise more, start reading, spend more time in the garden, watch less TV, travel more, and stop drinking.” Of course those people don’t feel motivated—they are so overwhelmed by their resolutions, they don’t even want to get out of bed! So my first piece of advice is to pick one or two resolutions that you really believe you can accomplish and focus on those.

Several years ago, my friend Bob Lorber and I wrote a book called Putting the One Minute Manager to Work where we talked about the PRICE system. This model works great for New Year’s resolutions. Here’s what the letters in the PRICE acronym stand for:

P is for pinpoint. What is the thing you’d like to do? Is it to lose weight? Exercise more? Get to bed earlier? Identify what you want to work on and be specific.

R is for record. What is your present level of performance in that area? Record your weight or your clothes sizes, write down your present level of exercise, or write down your typical bedtime so you have baseline data. Now you have something to compare with where you want to go, which involves the next step.

I is for involve. Gather key people in your life who can help you set a One Minute Goal for each resolution based on the difference between where you are now (what you’ve recorded) and where you’d like to go. We need to ask for support from people who care about us because it’s very hard to stick to resolutions on our own. Perhaps you could agree to help someone with their resolutions while they help you with yours! Almost everyone needs support from others. What will they do to cheer you on? How can they help hold you accountable? Plan it out and get agreement on your goal or goals. And remember, the best goals are SMART: Specific and measurable, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable/time-bound.

C is for coach. Now your plans are in place and you are starting to make good on your resolutions. You are getting the coaching you need—the cheerleading, the support, and the redirection. Let other people help to keep you in line. As I say, if you could do it by yourself, you would.

is for evaluate. When you have made some headway on your goal, look back and evaluate how you are doing. First, catch yourself doing something right and give yourself a One Minute Praising—any forward progression toward your resolution is worth celebrating! Now think about whether you may be off track in any way. Is there anything that needs to be “tweaked” to enable you to continue your progress? A One Minute Re-Direct may be in order. Don’t stop now! Keep tracking so you can see how you are continuously improving, and plan your future strategies. What will you pinpoint next?

It’s exciting to look ahead at a new year, especially when you have plans for self-improvement in place and friends to support you and help you accomplish your goals. What are you going to be smiling about in December? Take care and have a terrific 2020!

Golfers: Are You Too Attached to Outcome?

I’ve often said that golf is an acronym for Game of Life First. I certainly proved that when I recently tried to qualify for the Golden Seniors team at my local country club.

In golf, as in life, you get good breaks you deserve and you get good breaks you don’t deserve. You get bad breaks you deserve and you get bad breaks you don’t deserve. Sometimes you’re playing better than you should and you have to deal with success and sometimes you’re playing worse than you should and you have to deal with failure. All in four and a half hours! Given the aggravation, it’s hard to believe that people pay money to play that game!

Well, I experienced all of this during my tryout, and ended up playing a lot worse than I should. I have to admit I was pretty disappointed in myself. But lo and behold, I got an email congratulating me for making the Golden Seniors roster! And just to prove what a crazy game golf is, last weekend I played with my grandson Alec and shot my best round since we started playing together. How about that! Such is life—and golf.

If you like golf, go to the library and check out a book I wrote years ago with Wally Armstrong, one of the great golf teachers in our country, called The Mulligan. It has a few gems you might be able to use.

One of my favorite parts in our book was about NATO golf—Not Attached To Outcome. I adopted the NATO philosophy years ago. I can’t tell you how much more fun it is to play golf this way than to grind my teeth over the score. I’m not worried about whether I’m going to be able to hit that hole or make that putt—I just get up there and let it happen.

When you’re attached to outcome, you might be having a good game but then you hit the ball wrong and find yourself focusing on the wrong things—every move you make, every breeze, every bump in the grass. Your body tightens up and you just can’t play as well. You become fearful of your results because you believe who you are depends on how you score or play that day.

When I play NATO golf, it doesn’t mean I’m not interested in hitting good shots or scoring well. It’s great when that happens, but I know that I am not my score. I am not each shot. As a result, I’m much more relaxed and able to swing freely at the ball without fear. I can focus on the fun, the camaraderie, and the beauty of my surroundings.

Spring is coming! Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead this Sunday morning. And remember: Life is a very special occasion—and golf isn’t too bad, either.

New Year, New Goals: Don’t Go It Alone!

The New Year is fast approaching and here it comes again: New Year’s resolution time. Have you ever made New Year’s resolutions you didn’t keep? My experience is that all of us have had good intentions we didn’t follow through on over the years. We usually start out enthusiastic about the change but after a while our enthusiasm falls by the wayside. Why is that?

My friend Art Turock taught me that the problem stems from confusion between interest and commitment. For example, when interested walkers and joggers wake up and find it raining outside, they lie back down and think to themselves, “I’ll exercise tomorrow.” However, when committed exercisers wake up and find it’s raining, they get out of bed and think to themselves, “I’ll exercise inside today!” In other words:

They keep their commitment to their commitment.

So, let’s get real. What have you been wanting to do for a long time but just haven’t been able to get done? Maybe it has to do with your health and fitness. Or maybe it’s learning a new language, or getting organized, or cleaning out your garage. Whatever it is, that’s great. You’ve got your commitment. Now, how are you going to keep your commitment to your commitment?

First, don’t go it alone. The heroic legend of the lone wolf who succeeds at lofty goals through willpower alone is strong with many people. This “John Wayne myth” isn’t dead—it’s just not effective.  I should know. For years I could not keep my commitment to good health and wellness. I needed help.

That help eventually came from Tim Kearin, the health and fitness coach who had been patient with me for many years. Each year Tim listened to me announce my New Year’s resolution to improve my health and fitness—and each year he watched me not keep my commitment. Year after year we went through the same routine: Tim would receive a call from me early in the year to begin a fitness program. I would get underway with enthusiasm, but after a month or so I would gradually become too busy to keep my commitment to my commitment. The process would start again at the beginning of the following year.

The way I broke this ineffective cycle—and the way you can, too—was to follow the six principles outlined in Fit at Last, the book Tim and I wrote to document my fitness journey:

  1. Have Compelling Reasons and a Purpose
  2. Establish a Mutual Commitment to Success
  3. Apply SLII® (in other words, get the coaching and support that matches your development level)
  4. Develop Age-Appropriate Goals
  5. Set Up a Support System to Hold You Accountable
  6. Have Measurable Milestones to Stay Motivated

While these six principles were developed to accompany a fitness program, they can be adapted to any kind of goal accomplishment.  I’m happy to say that by applying these six principles, I’ve managed to maintain my health and fitness goals for the past five years.

You, too, can keep your commitment to your commitment. Just don’t be a lone wolf. Set yourself up to succeed by finding the coaching and support you need.

6 Keys to Accomplishing Your Big Fat Hairy Goals

This summer I’ve decided to regain some of the fitness goals I achieved back in 2013, when I was writing Fit at Last with my friend and coach, Tim Kearin.  Working with Tim, I’d lost over 40 pounds and gained balance, strength, and flexibility. But a busy speaking and writing schedule has eroded some of those gains. So rather than continue to let things slide, I’m recommitting to my goal of becoming a “lean, mean, golfing machine.”

That means going back to the basic building blocks of accomplishing a big goal like fitness. You can apply these same principles to any Big Fat Hairy Goals you’re working on.

  1. First, have compelling reasons and a purpose. Why are you working on this goal? Why is it important to you? Your goal won’t work in the long term if you are only doing it to please others. Eventually, it has to be something you want to do.

Being around as long as possible to enjoy life with my wife Margie, my kids, and grandkids was my most compelling reason to be fit and healthy when I began my fitness journey at age 71. I want to see my grandkids graduate from college and to see my son Scott and daughter Debbie get their AARP cards. While that sounds like a pretty typical reason someone would give for getting fit, another perhaps less conventional reason involves my Labradoodle dog, Joy. I absolutely love Joy, and she lets me know the feeling is mutual. When I pull into our garage, she senses it’s me even before I get in the door, and she races down the hallway and leaps into my arms. Because Joy is a small dog, I know it’s likely she’ll live to be about 15 years old, so I want to make it into at least my late 80s. I know this sounds a little strange, because most people are concerned about losing their dog, not their dog losing them! But I can’t stand the thought of Joy racing down the hall someday and not seeing me come through the door.

  1. Establish a mutual commitment to success with a knowledgeable coach, mentor, or friend who will help you keep your commitment to your commitment. If they help you, what are you going to do for them? Perhaps the two of you have similar goals and you can become partners and encourage each other.
  2. Learn about Situational Leadership® II. This is our company’s principal leadership training program we teach to businesses all over the world—and you can also use its concepts to accomplish your personal goals. SLII® suggests that there is no one best leadership style. Each learner needs varying amounts of direction and support depending on their development level (competence and commitment) on a specific task or goal. For instance, let’s say you’re starting a business. In some parts of your entrepreneurship—working with customers, for example—you might already be self-reliant and can handle a delegating leadership style. But in other areas—for example, finance and accounting—you might be cautious or even discouraged. That’s where you’ll need more direction or support from your partner, mentor, or coach.
  3. This principle primarily applies to fitness. Work with your doctor before you begin a fitness program to develop age-appropriate goals. Thinking you’re someday going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be a realistic goal, but building up your tone and strength so you can put your own carry-on bag in the overhead bin on a plane is realistic.
  4. Set up a support system to hold you accountable. This would include trusted friends and relatives who care about your success and will tell you the truth. Yes, you need cheerleaders on your journey, but you also need people who will call you on your excuses and rationalizations for not keeping your commitment to your commitment.
  5. Finally, you need to have measurable milestones to stay motivated. A basic belief I have is: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In other words, if you keep track of how well you’re doing in each area you’re working on, you can celebrate your progress—or redirect your efforts if your numbers are going in the wrong direction.

Following through on and achieving your Big Fat Hairy Goals is one of life’s most satisfying experiences. Set yourself up for success by putting these six keys to use. Good luck!