How to Create SMART Goals as a Chief of Staff

Written by vChief

January 15, 2021

As we approach a new year, we are often inclined to create resolutions and set goals. In our work life, our individual goals should align with our strategic priorities and organizational goals. A simple Google search on goal-setting in the business arena will bring about several results with the acronyms SMART and GROW. Let’s take a look at how using either (or a blend) of these programs can help you and your organization start off the new year on the best footing possible.

What do SMART and GROW stand for?

Like any popular concept, you will find a variety of ideas and associations with these acronyms all over the internet, but the basic meaning is the same. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Many people find success using the SMART platform because it holds them accountable and leaves little room for grey areas. However, others may get stuck somewhere in the ART part, leaving them unfulfilled or unsuccessful in their goals, which is never a good feeling.

That’s why the GROW program was developed, standing for Goal, Reality, Option and Will. GROW goals have a bit more flexibility in that you have options to fall back on if plan A doesn’t pan out. It’s definitely good to account for some unexpected changes as your year progresses.

If you haven’t used either of these models of goal-setting before, why not tinker around with both to see which one sticks? You may find that you are perfectly capable of setting your goals in the SMART mode and achieving success. On the other hand, GROW may be more your speed. Or maybe a blend of the best parts of both is what works for you and your organization. No matter how you’re choosing to set your goals, it is key that they’re measurable and actionable. Saying “I want to be rich,” is not a goal but “I want to earn one million in profits next year” is.

Putting acronyms into practice

Let’s start with SMART goals. It makes sense to do some organizational planning and business development first, to ensure that your individual goals and strategic priorities are aligned with the big picture. Once you have the company’s annual goals set up, you and your employees will have a brighter vision of where you should focus.

Getting very detailed about your goals will make it more likely that you achieve them. As we mentioned earlier, setting specific goals that can be measured against former benchmarks will provide important information on your growth and development in your role. Again, a vague ‘goal’ like “I want to increase our brand awareness” doesn’t set you up for success. A better goal would be “I want to increase our followers on XYZ social media platform by 20%,” providing a clear vision of something that will help achieve your wish that you can actively track with tools and resources available to you.

Of course, the “attainable” and “realistic” pieces of SMART are where some businesses and individuals falter. Be very mindful here: make stretch goals that will help you grow but aren’t so out of left field that you’d need a miracle to achieve them. Don’t cheat yourself of an opportunity to dream big, either, but make sure you’re not setting yourself up for complete failure. Find the middle ground and work with it.

Finally, if you don’t set up any sort of timeline or deadline for achieving your goals, then what’s going to motivate you to put other tasks aside and work on these goals? You may very well “trick” yourself into believing you have plenty of time to get to the other side of that goal…and you do! Because you didn’t give yourself a deadline. Deadlines are impactful because they are motivating, just as long as they are realistic.

For many organizations and individuals, the GROW acronym offers a bit more leniency and flexibility. Set some goals that are important to you or your organization. Make sure those goals are grounded in reality. Measure your performance over the past year and determine if these goals are attainable moving forward. Decide how you are going to set priorities and delegate when necessary.

The options piece of GROW goals offers flexibility in that it allows for a back-up plan if things don’t go as expected or something puts a roadblock up into your initial goal planning. You’re not giving up on your goals, but you’re allowing room for improvement as the year plays out and you have a clearer picture of where you’re headed. Growth within an individual and an organization is a continuous process, so altering goals as things progress and change seems only natural.

No matter what mode you are using to set your goals, write them down. Research shows you increase the likelihood of success by over 40% through this one simple step.

Working towards goals as a leader

As an executive, the personal goals you make will be central to the organization. You need to make sure your personal goals are cascading down to your own team while also aligning with the goals of your own boss and the organization as a whole.

Paying close attention and taking good notes in organizational meetings will ensure you understand which direction the company is moving in, and working your personal goals in sync with those priorities. If you already had some personal goals in mind, perhaps some minor adjustments can adapt them to the larger goals of the organization. Working side by side and having open conversations with your team and supervisor throughout the goal planning process is another way to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Working towards goals as an organization

Your personal goals are not the only ones that need to align with the overall development plans of your organization. Just like you did when working on your own goals, encourage your team in creating goals that are action-oriented and aligned with the organization’s goals. Check in regularly with and find out how you can support. At times, you might have to get creative on how to make individual goals work towards the organization’s goals, but it can be done.

For instance, say you have an employee who has a goal to do more teaching in the upcoming year. Find opportunities for that employee to provide training on their skill set within the organization, or to be an educational resource who can provide information on your business to individuals or organizations outside the company who express interest in learning more.

Getting started

You have put a lot of thought into goals, which is a huge part of the process. But a goal is just a whim until you take action. How do you get started and ensure a successful year ahead? Here are some top tips:

  • Set up brainstorming sessions for goals with your boss, team, and individuals on your team
  • Set meaningful goals
  • Prioritize up to five goals–any more and you’re setting yourself up to fail
  • Make sure each goal is action-oriented
  • As you work through the year, write down other ideas that come to mind as possible future goals, as you begin to accomplish and adjust your original goals

As one year comes to a close and we ready ourselves to cross the starting line on a new year with new goals and ideas, remember that envisioning goals is only step one. You’ll need to continuously monitor your measurables, readjust when necessary, and regularly reflect on and evaluate where you’re at, as well as the organization as a whole. Schedule regular meetings to discuss performance and allow for feedback and the opportunity to outline next steps in the goal-setting process. Goal-setting can be very refreshing and invigorating this time of year, but it’s important to also keep the energy going throughout the year and remember that change is the only constant we can rely on.

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