Around the new year, goal-setting is always top of mind. This is often the time where we reflect on the accomplishments for the past year and look ahead to the goals that we want to accomplish as a team in the coming year.

Most of us are already taught what SMART goals are and the importance of setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goals. However, even with SMART goal-setting, we don’t always accomplish our goals. So why do SMART goals fail?

How do We Set the “Right” SMART Goals?

There are many factors that affect the effectiveness of our goal-setting but there are three that are crucial to success and need to be addressed. These factors are associated with how well we’re connected to our goals, how proactive we are in addressing the challenges that might be getting in the way and how realistic these goals actually are.

Below are some easy questions that you can ask yourself to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction. These questions will help set you up for success for your SMART goal-setting.

  • What do you want to achieve?

Before you get into the specifics of each goal, think in general terms what you want to achieve. For example, if you’d like to build a high-performing and engaged team, a general goal that you might have could be to have regular development check-ins with each of your team members.

  • Why is this goal important to you?

Being able to articulate why this goal is important will help you identify your level of commitment to this goal. If you’re not committed to accomplishing your goals, it doesn’t matter how smart they are. Having regular development check-ins could be important to you because you want to build/sustain high performance on your team.

  • How does this goal align with your values?

This question is similar to the one above but helps you dig deeper into how this goal helps you define who you are. Going back to the goal of having regular development check-ins, it might align with your values of building genuine connections with others.

If your goals do not align with your values, you will need to identify whether or not you’ll need to pivot. (If you find it challenging to identify what your values are, my post on “How to Cultivate Passion For Your Work” will help you!)

  • What do you need to address in order to achieve this goal?

When it comes to goal-setting, especially the bigger goals or goals that we’ve tried achieving in the past but have failed, there are often challenges that need to be addressed. It is important that you identify what those are and resolve them before you get into your SMART goal-setting. Going back to the example above, the challenge getting into the way of having regular check-ins could be your ability to prioritize them.

  •  What is the acceptable goal for you?

To think through how realistic the goal really is, now is the time to get more into the specifics. If you want to have regular development check-ins with your team, an acceptable goal might be to have a these check-ins twice a year.

  • What is the ideal goal for you?

After identifying the acceptable goal, now is your time to make sure you’re not aiming too low. Sticking with the same example above, your ideal goal might be to have a development check-in with your team monthly.

  • Lastly, what is the middle goal?

The middle goal is the goal between the acceptable and ideal. This goal helps you identify a goal that feels achievable but will also stretch you. Often times, this is the goal that works best with your SMART goal-setting. If your acceptable goal is to have a check-in with your team twice a year and your ideal is to do them monthly, your middle goal could be to do them quarterly.

Take a Pause Before Jumping into SMART Goal-Setting

Many of us fail in achieving our goals not because we don’t know how to set them but that we don’t take enough time to think through why these goals are important, how they reflect our values, how realistic they are and the challenges that we need to address in order to achieve them. In my coaching conversations, I often help clients think through these factors and help them resolve the challenges that are getting in the way and help them identify the “right” goals before the SMART goal-setting begins. Hope this resource will help set you up for success for your goal-setting for the coming year!

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