Creating Your Leadership Strategy: How to Effectively Set Goals
Welcome (back) to the Jennifer Nash Newsletter where I share biweekly tips on leadership, coaching, and being human in this new world of work. If you’re here for the first time – welcome – I’m so glad you’ve joined!
In Chapter 3 of Be Human, Lead Human: How to Connect People and Performance, I guide readers through the process of getting to know themselves. I’ve also written before about practicing reflection to get to know yourself.
Knowing yourself is critical to developing your leadership strategy because who you are is the foundation for how you show up as a leader.
Once you’ve gotten familiar with yourself, the next step is to use that information to create a strategy for leading yourself. After all, you have to lead yourself first if you want people to follow you.
Leading yourself first means intentionally directing your beliefs, actions, and behaviors to align with your goals. And to do that, you need a clear idea of what your goals are. For some, this is easier said than done.
The desire to grow and accomplish goals is a natural human characteristic. However, the concrete processes involved in doing so don’t come naturally to everyone.
Today, I want to share exactly how to set smart, concrete goals to help you achieve your desired outcomes.
Clarify Your Desired Outcome
Recently, one of my team members shared that she feels like she’s bad at goal setting. She described having an abstract idea of what she wants to accomplish, but never a solid enough grasp to be able to articulate it, much less identify the steps she needs to get from here to there.
This nebulous feeling around goals is more common than you might think. Oftentimes when I’m working with clients, I have to help them put language to the goals they want to achieve. And sometimes this process even helps them realize that the goals they’ve been pursuing aren’t actually what they want to achieve!
If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?
The key to clearing the haze around your goals is to get SMART about them. That is, you want to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Determine Your Measures of Success
Reverse engineer your desired outcome to determine the steps to achieving your goal. Sometimes it’s easier to start with the end in mind and then work backwards. Regardless of how you choose to approach it, here are five elements of the SMART framework to help you set and achieve your goals.
Specific – To achieve a desired outcome, a goal must be specific. When writing the goal, try to answer these three questions: “What needs to be done, who needs to do it, and how will it be accomplished?” For example – I will write a LinkedIN newsletter.
Measurable – Quantify your goal to make it easier to assess if you meet the desired outcome or not. Use measurable benchmarks, such as the number of newsletters, newsletter word length, and/or if it is posted or not. For example – I will write and post one, 800-word LinkedIN newsletter.
Achievable – Identify the skills or resources you’ll need to accomplish the goal. For the example above, to write and post this 800-word LinkedIN newsletter, I’ll need access to the internet, a computer, fluency in English, knowledge of the topic, research skills to find sources online, critical thinking to evaluate any data/research findings, a LinkedIN account, and a google docs account.
Relevant/Realistic – Understand how and why the goal matters to you or others. For this example, I recently coached a client who was experiencing productivity and performance challenges. When we took a deep dive into the details, he had 37 goals he was working on at the same time. No wonder he wasn’t accomplishing anything! Since many people are juggling so much on their plates already, and the holidays increase that load, the topic of ‘goal setting’ for this newsletter right before the holidays is relevant and timely.
Timely – Giving yourself a firm deadline prompts targeted focus, as I discuss in Be Human, Lead Human. Even better is when you timebox it. For example, I will draft the LinkedIN newsletter by Tuesday at 12pm, will revise it by 8am Wednesday, and will post the final LinkedIN newsletter at 12pm CT Wednesday.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Although not part of the SMART framework, consider celebrating when you achieve your goal. Acknowledging the hard work and significant effort you put in to get to where you want to be stimulates dopamine release per Whitney Johnson in her recent HBR article ‘Celebrate To Win’ , enhances self-efficacy, and fuels motivation to continue learning and growing.
Comment below on how using the SMART framework for goal setting is working for you!
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