How to Set Good Goals

When I say good goals, I really mean: goals that are going to get done what they say they’re going to do. That’s the bottom line of it right? Are they going to make progress and accomplish? The whole point of the process is getting on the right path to lead you to the finish line.

In this informal series, we’ve shared The Case for Goal Setting and Don’t Let These Goal Setting Distractions Get You. Hopefully, we’ve laid the foundation for why you can’t skip goal setting and the importance of doing it right. Today, we’ll lay out how we actually do it.

Maybe you do set goals, but don’t really understand some of the critical components that should go into goal setting to create good goals. We do a lot of goal setting at Hinge Studio and regularly utilize this process for our own business and marketing and communications programs. Currently working with nearly a dozen clients, it’s routine that we work on setting and reviewing their goals too. In fact, at this point it’s so natural, we often forget we have a goal setting process we follow.

The Ins-And-Outs of How We Look at Goals

There are two main sets of goals we utilize: business goals and secondary goals like department, employee, customer service, and other areas of business.

Business goals are the overall goals for your business. They help you grow and achieve objectives as a business and also provide insight into your organization’s purpose and how you serve customers.

The type of secondary goals we work with most often, and want to focus on today, are marketing and communications goals. These are goals you identify to ensure your marketing and communications efforts are supporting your business goals and that aim to move efforts and desires in this area forward.

Check-In On Your Business Goals

If you’re trying to identify goals for your marketing and communications efforts, or any other sub component of your business, you need to first revisit your business goals. Make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. goals (described below) and that you understand the why and what behind them. For the sake of discussing goals today, we’re going to say: your marketing and communications goals should always support your business goals (of course this rule can be broken in certain situations, but in general you’ll be in good shape if you follow it). There are many effective ideas and tools you can utilize for your marketing and communications, but if they aren’t helping to move the needle on your business goals, you’ll get tired, bored and frustrated.

Work The S.M.A.R.T. Goal Process

The next step you should take is working the S.M.A.R.T. goal process which is generally attributed to Peter Drucker's Management by Objectives concept. In literature and articles, you will often see that the focus words of S.M.A.R.T. goals can vary. The bolded words below are the focus words we typically use while the words in parenthesis are alternatives you can use if they fit your organization better. We start by suggesting the general goal we think will move the needle in the direction we need, and then we move down the list described below ensuring that each goal meets all criteria.

Specific (simple, sensible, significant)

A specific goal helps you focus your efforts. It sets the tone and provides description for the goal. Ask questions like: what are you trying to accomplish, why is it important and what resources are involved?

Measurable (meaningful, motivating)

If you can’t measure it, did it actually happen? In our organization, the answer is no. As such, this is a BIGGIE. Identify what you will measure success against. For example: how much, how many or how you will know when it is accomplished?

Achievable (agreed, attainable)

Once you’ve set your metric, be realistic and examine if the goal is attainable. It shouldn’t be easy to achieve, but you should be able to believe you can get there. Questions to ask include: how you will accomplish this goal and is it realistic based on your resources, constraints, financial factors, etc.

Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)

Does your goal matter to your business and others responsible for its success? If not, throw it out. Both of these items should be checked. Take time to review if the goal is worthwhile, aligned with other efforts and/or needs, and being implemented at the right time.

Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

Items that have deadlines get done. Okay…fine, that’s not always true. But it is true that goals that have timelines are more likely to be accomplished. Ask questions like when should this be achieved and what needs to happen today, in a week, six months, and two years?

Evaluate & Review

An initial criticism of S.M.A.R.T. goals was that it didn’t allow room for flexibility and may stifle creativity. In more recent years, S.M.A.R.T. goals have turned into S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals adding on:

Evaluate

Evaluating goals is critical. Without a commitment to checking in on your goals, they can easily be ignored. Set up a system to evaluate them daily, weekly or, at the very least monthly. Do they still meet all the criteria? Is your metric moving in the right direction? Is this goal still relevant? Also, creating a habit of evaluating your goals will keep them top-of-mind and show you where work still needs to be done.

Readjust

If you are working towards a goal and are constantly hitting roadblocks, take a step back and readjust. This doesn’t mean that your entire goal should go in the trash. It just means, make some tweaks to your approach to see if there is a better way to get there. If you evaluate and things are plugging right along, obviously ignore this step.

When you’re ongoingly evaluating and readjusting your goals, you can easily adapt to allow for creativity and flexibility. As such, ensure your goal setting process includes the E.R. of S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. I will caution, if you are constantly making major changes to your goals that aren’t resembling each other in any way, you may have trouble making progress. However, if your goals lead back to your business goal and stay consistent with the overall theme of what you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll see bigger and better results than just throwing a “get more followers” kind of goal out there.

Stop. And Think About It.

Now that I’ve outlined this process, I want you to stop and think of your biggest marketing and communications goal. Is it a S.M.A.R.T. goal? Is it leading and accomplishing? If the answer is no, take that goal and run it through this process. See if a stronger, better goal is identified.

Off You Go!

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals helps clarify ideas, provides greater focus, utilizes time and resources effectively, and increases your opportunity for success.

Keep in mind, goal setting is only the first step in meeting these goals. There are dozens of other pieces that go into accomplishing your goals like planning the tools and tactics you’ll use, tracking, measuring and adapting. But, good goals are the first step in moving the needle.

Looking for other helpful posts? Check out these posts too:

·        The Case for Goal Setting

·        Don’t Let These Goal Setting Distractions Get You