Set Smarter Goals

By Tom Reilly

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Zig Ziglar

Our best sales practices study helped us identify what makes top achievers successful. A distinguishing factor among top-achievers is setting and achieving goals. Our research shows that nearly 90 percent of top-achievers have written sales objectives and more than 70 percent of top-achievers have personal goals outside of work. Top-achievers know the first step in achieving a goal is setting a goal.

Every achievement begins with a dream, an idea, or a vision. To accomplish the mission and realize the dream, the person establishes benchmarks (goals or objectives) to gauge one’s progress. The individual then steps on the path that leads to the goal.

Most people set goals; some even achieve them. Sadly, fewer than ten percent of those who set New Year’s resolutions stick to them. Experienced and successful goal setters set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym introduced by G.T. Doran in a 1981 article in Management Review, There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. Doran’s definition included these five criteria:

  • Specific: target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable: quantify, or at least suggest, an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable: specify who will do it.
  • Realistic: state what results can realistically be achieved given available resources.
  • Time-related: specify when the result can be achieved.

Since 1981, this model has been adapted; words like action-oriented, achievable, relevant, and results-oriented have replaced the original text to fit the context of the goal. Most goals focus on outcome—what the person wants to achieve.

Smarter goals include two important enhancements to this formula. The “E” stands for effort and the “R” stands for results. Effort goals describe action; result goals describe the outcome of that effort. Another way to view this is that effort goals are action oriented; they describe activities. Result goals are achievement oriented; they describe accomplishments. The motivational power of effort goals is that the goal setter has control over his or her behavior. When effort goals are aligned correctly, they lead to the outcomes the goal setter desires.

Specific goals add clarity to one’s efforts. Measurement benchmarks progress and provides valuable feedback about the viability of one’s efforts. Accepting responsibility for achieving goals encourages accountability which inspires action. Realistic goals cause the goal setter to stretch, not snap. Time schedules help avoid procrastination. Effort includes controllable activities that move the goal setter closer to the outcome he or she desires. Results are the outcome—accomplishments. Those who do this will set and achieve smarter goals.

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