Written by Dr. Farhan Shahzad and Sarah Davies-Robertson
Leaders and managers in the workplace can use the SMART model (setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals) to set direction and identify their goals. It is important that management and leaders have a strategy to identify what they would like to achieve. The SMART model is a time-tested way to do this.
In order for managers to utilise the SMART model, they need to think about what exactly it is they would like to accomplish. A vague idea can be given structure through the use of the SMART criteria.
Examples of how SMART can be used to help leaders
Managers and leaders should lead by example. They are in a position of influence over their workforce and therefore need to follow time-tested methods that work. These examples help set the culture of the workforce and ensure their subordinates follow suit.
A leader must lead by example and have goals that are clearly defined. SMART allows for leaders to set their intentions and values and showcase these to their team.
An example of this is the first part of the acronym, specific. Leaders and managers need to set specific intentions. They should have a yes be yes and a no means no approach to leading, showing consistency in their intent and objectives. An example of setting a specific goal or intention is for leaders to offer their team more feedback. Constructive feedback, according to Gallup, produces significantly higher engagement at work.
Measurable goals can help leaders and managers quantify their success. If we revert back to the last example, leaders that wish to offer more feedback can quantify the amount of feedback they offer and the outcomes achieved from this effort. Quantifying also allows leaders to place a cap on how much they do achieve, meaning their goals are realistic. Offering more feedback to employees may be the goal, but how much more feedback can they realistically offer?
When setting workplace goals, SMART helps managers and leaders stay relevant to their organisation’s needs. They need to ask questions about the overall vision and mission of the organisation and the key aims and objectives. Is their goal relevant to the organisation’s overall strategy and vision, for instance?
Lastly, managers and leaders need to set a fixed time to achieve the goals that they set. They need to show that they can manage their time effectively, which is the hallmark of a great leader, and achieve their goals in a realistic time frame. SMART can also be used alongside a SWOT analysis to check for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that may hinder or provide opportunities to achieve these goals.
SMART Goals and Motivation
Setting goals and achieving goals excites us. We get a hit of dopamine (a neurotransmitter linked to positive emotion) when we achieve a worthwhile pursuit. Motivation comes from creating and achieving a goal that we are excited about. Seeing our goals on paper can help motivate us to achieve them.
One such tactic is to have your SMART goals visible around your room, in the kitchen, your study, or bathroom, where you can be reminded of what you set out to achieve. A new body of research that focuses on the neuroscience of leadership identifies how people can set and achieve their goals with ease. These studies have shown that we can use our brain to our advantage and harness its power to rewire our neural pathways in a process called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is linked to habit-formation and can influence and change the way we think about life. We can use the power of the brain through utilising whole-brain thinking, imagination and neuroplasticity to improve success in our own lives, as well as the lives of our clients.