It's very easy to confuse confident motion with being productive—and they're not the same thing. Productive to me means measurable outcomes that apply to my most important to-dos that positively affect my life. That's it.
Do you want to impact performance and outcomes?
Then set goals. That's the big take-away from last week's blog as we started, and now continue, exploring successful goal-setting tips and strategies. Don't miss the free SMART Goals worksheet at the end.
Yes, over 35-years of research confirm that goals affect performance and outcomes, period. So the question isn't should you set goals, the question is how can you be more successful at goal-setting?
Here are the other strong take-aways from last week:
'Do your best' or Specific & Difficult?
Have you ever said to someone, "Do your best' when assigning a task or motivating someone towards achievement? Well, to sum up the research, when people are asked to do their best, they simply don't.
It's specific and difficult goals that consistently leads to higher performance. With ambiguity removed by a clearly stated goal with enough details to provide a clear picture of what is desired or needed, you eliminate the wiggle room and wide variation of possible interpretations of just what 'doing your best' means. It's more motivating and easier to commit to.
Specificity also mean that you can measure outcomes and results. Like Tim Ferriss says in our opening quote, goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal. And if it's a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and more complex, there may be multiple goals and sub-goals to guide you and others on the journey of goal achievement.
Let's say you want to learn how to play golf. That's a BHAG, for sure. Here's a goal a new golfer might set for themselves:
In 90 days, achieve a golf score of 90.
While on the surface that seems specific and measurable, compare it to this goal:
In 90 days, learn the rules of golf and scoring; learn how to golf (discover how to hold a club, swing a club, when to use an iron or wood, when to use a specific iron, when to hit short versus long, etc.); and, develop a golfing relationship with at least one above-average golfer.
The second goal gets really granular. It spells out exactly what and when and makes it seem much more doable. Compared to the first goal, you get a much clearer picture of what success looks like. It also looks like there might be room for some sub-goals to support the overall BHAG.
Norman Vincent Peale once said, "Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers, you cannot be successful or happy."
In fact, a person's belief in their own ability to succeed at a particular task or goal—whether it's actually attainable or not—is also important in goal‐setting in several ways. People with high self‐efficacy set higher goals than do people with lower self‐efficacy. They are more committed to assigned goals. They find and use better task strategies to attain the goals. And, they respond more positively to negative feedback than do people with low self‐efficacy.
Leaders can raise the self‐efficacy of their direct reports by:
My big take-away from goal-setting research is that SMART goals are indeed, smart. While there are variations on the definitions of the SMART goals acronym, we can use this to summarize what the research supports:
S - Specific: Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you are going to do. Specific is the What, Why, and How of the SMART goal model. It should be focused, clearly stated, and there should be enough details to provide a clear picture of what is desired.
M - Measurable: Goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal. Usually, the entire goal statement is a measure for a project or achievement, but there are can be several short-term or smaller measurements built into the overall goal.
You can choose to put smaller measurements or sub-goals here or create separate sub-goals worksheets that support a larger, more complex goal or project. Take the time to create goals that will drive success, not just what is expedient. As we say in change management and leadership, sometimes you have to go slow in order to go fast.
A - Attainable/Achievable: This is the self-efficacy part of SMART. Goals should be achievable; they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough so that you can achieve them. You must possess the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the goal. You can meet almost any goal when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time-frame that allows you to carry out those steps. As you carry out the steps, you can achieve goals that may have seemed impossible when you started.
On the other hand, if a goal is impossible to achieve, you may not even try to accomplish it. Achievable goals motivate employees. Impossible goals demotivate them. I will share more findings from the research on how to tackle the most complex goals, next week.
R - Relevant: Goals should measure outcomes, not activities or outputs. More on that next week, too. Goals should be applicable to your current role and clearly linked to your responsibilities in that role.
T - Time-bound: Goals should be linked to a time-frame or deadline that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal. Without such tension, the goal is unlikely to produce a relevant outcome.
If you would like a simple SMART goal worksheet, feel free to download mine:
Read Part 3 here: Goals: Feedback, Complexity, & Satisfaction
Have an amazing journey today!
Alan Mikolaj is a coach and leadership development consultant with 15+ years of experience. He is passionate about helping leaders transform their leadership, their teams, and their organizations. Impactful, professional approach driven by a passion for meaning and purpose, a growth mindset, and a commitment to excellence and service in order to drive change and results.
Alan maintains the ethics and standards of behavior established by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), including the standards regarding confidentiality. You can learn more about them on the ICF website.
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Alan is on a mission to partner with like-minded leaders who want to make a positive difference in the world.
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Alan Mikolaj is a a professional, experienced, positive, and passionate speaker, leadership and organizational development consultant, change agent, author, and coach. He holds his Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from Sam Houston State University. He is a certified graduate coach from Coaching Out of the Box and holds his ACC and membership with the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
Free Discovery Conversation!
Impactful change starts with a conversation! Schedule your free, one-hour session by clicking here: Discovery Conversation with Alan
Or call or email: Contact Page
In his third book, A Travel Guide to Leadership, Alan offers you simple, fundamental, and powerful lessons that have the power to transform you, your relationships, and your career.