SMART’er – not harder.

SMART’er – not harder.

Two years – give or take a few days – to London 2012. And on every continent athletes and coaches will be making plans, setting targets. All with one simple goal – to hear eleven words: “Champion Olympique et medaille d’or. Olympic champion and gold medal…”

As you might expect from someone with a sales and marketing background, I’ve spent my life setting goals – either for myself, for a sales force, or now, helping Alternative Board members to define what they really want from their lives and their businesses.

And like most people, I eventually ended up in the SMART camp. That’s Specific, Meaningful, Acceptable, Rewarding and Trackable. Hang on, that’s not right. Isn’t it Stretching, Motivational, Agreed upon, Relevant and Tangible?

That’s the problem. So many people have stood in front of whiteboards, flip charts and laptops giving their own versions, that what was once one of the more useful acronyms in the business world has become a little…well, Silly, Messed About, Ridiculous and Trite.

Come on, who put ‘Rewarding’ in there? A weekend in Paris with Nicole Kidman might very well be rewarding, but as the bathroom mirror regularly confirms, it certainly isn’t Realistic.

A lot of us are heading off on holiday. Sooner or later you may find yourself with a glass of red wine, a pencil and a notepad thinking, “This time next year…what do I really want?”

So if you’re looking to set some goals and achieve some targets in the next twelve months – whether it’s on the sports field or at the office – here’s a version of SMART that’s always worked for me.

Specific – goals and targets have to be specific. “I’m going to be a better person” isn’t a target. These days it’s an MP who’s been caught fiddling his expenses.

Measurable – ditto. If you can’t measure it, then how do you judge whether you’ve succeeded? It doesn’t matter how you measure it – number of calls, money in the bank, seconds off your personal best – but it has to be measured. Someone other than yourself has to be able to say, “Yep, done that. What are you doing next?”

Ambitious – here’s where I disagree with the standard definition, ‘Attainable’. My golf handicap is 18. “I want to reduce my golf handicap to 17 by September 2011.” That’s a goal. It’s specific, it’s measurable and it’s attainable. But so what? Is that going to give me any lasting satisfaction? All I need to do is get lucky with a few putts one Sunday morning. No, if you’re going for a goal, it has to be something worthwhile. Something that’s attainable, sure. But something that lets you say, “Hey. Not bad. I’m proud of myself.”

Realistic – so I’m not going to play in the Open, but maybe I can reduce my handicap to 14… Ambitious, but still realistic. And yet how many times in my career have I seen sales managers set goals that are simply not realistic? Result – one de-motivated salesman. If the manager’s really scored an own goal, an entire sales force turned off. In the best companies goals and targets are agreed on – or maybe they come from the bottom up. They’re not imposed from the top down.

And lastly, Timely (or however you want to phrase it). Because a goal or a target without a timeframe is just a wish.

So there you are: “I want to reduce my golf handicap to 14 by September 2011.” It’s specific, measurable, ambitious enough to give me satisfaction when I achieve it, realistic and it’s got a time-frame. It’ll require dedication, and long hours of practice. A perfect example of goal-setting – were it not for the fact that I normally give the blog to my wife to proof-read. If there’s no follow-up in seven days time you’ll know the reason why…


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