State Your Goals the SMART Way

by Howard Shore, Date: Nov 14, 2009

State Your Goals the SMART Way

The first step in successfully executing a goal is to state it properly. You know your goal is well stated when anyone who reads it knows exactly what you are trying to accomplish and in what time frame. The better a person states the goal, the easier it is to create the action plan. An acronym commonly used for stating a goal properly is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistically high, and Time-based).

While these criteria seem simple, they are actually not easily achieved. If they were, everyone would be reaching a lot more of their goals. Very briefly, let us discuss what each of these criteria really means:

  • Specific – You say exactly what it is you want to do. Hazy goals are doomed to failure. For example, “We are going to establish a new training program for our supervisors by 10/1/XX.” You are not defining what you want to train them to do.
  • Measurable – The goal must be stated in a way that allows you to definitely know whether it has been achieved. In addition, you should be able to see whether the trend is negative so that you can modify your detailed action steps accordingly. For example, “We are going to increase the frequency of meetings with our hourly staff.” How often would you consider acceptable, and what do you want to communicate about?
  • Attainable and Realistically High – Goals must be lofty enough so we do not trip over them. If the goal is too low it will not stimulate anyone to put forth extra effort. On the other hand, if the goal is unrealistic no one will take it seriously.
  • Time-Based – When do you want this goal completed by? Be honest, are there goals you have talked about for years that are still on your to-do list? It is probably because you have not committed to a deadline.

The following is and example of a SMART goal:

  • Get 10 appointments with decision-makers in the hospitality industry that employ more than 250 people and are located within 50 miles of Miami area by the end of the quarter.

Once you have stated your goal in a manner that meets all of the SMART criteria, you then need to consider whether they achieve WAY (Written, Aligned, and Yours).

It is not unusual to meet people who have goals they have not communicated to anyone. Even worse, they may not be written down anywhere. In personal and organizational circumstances, it is always best to write your goals down for the following reasons:

  • Helps clarify your thinking
  • Keeps your goal from unconsciously being altered
  • Helps strengthen commitment
  • Simplifies the communication process
  • Provides a framework for measurement
  • Allows you to compare them to other goals

A common reason goals do not get achieved or take longer than expected is improper alignment. Goals may not be aligned for reasons that include:

  • Creation by separate people or departments
  • Failure to consolidate goals in one place to review congruence
  • In our desire to be optimistic, we are unrealistic
  • Incomplete or nonexistent action plans that underestimate what it will take to achieve our goal.
  • Failure to prioritize goals, thus giving them all equal priority.

Lastly, if a goal is yours, it is much more likely that you will be internally motivated to achieve it. It is hard to get excited about somebody else’s goals. This is primarily due to the fact that most people act based on their own self interest.

If you have goals that are not communicated succinctly to everyone, who is responsible for accomplishing each part of the plan, and what is the likelihood they are going to do it? People like to have purpose and know where they are going. We use goals to focus individuals and organizations in the same direction. When we achieve goals, it increases energy, which has a positive impact on results, thus further increasing energy, increasing focus on goals, increasing results, increasing energy, and so on. It is that simple!

If you want to achieve more goals, make sure that you state them in a SMART WAY! Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business or contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or

Reference and excerpts taken with permission from Leadership published by Resource Associates Corporation, Mohnton, PA