SMART Objectives miss One Magic Ingredient – by Paul Marsh, Client Trainer & Founder at Lightbulb

SMART Objectives miss One Magic Ingredient – by Paul Marsh, Client Trainer & Founder at Lightbulb

Managing performance, and particularly when people are remote working, is tricky.  The practical use of objective-setting to help us focus on expectations and outcomes has never been more important.

Managers have been advised to use SMART objective-setting for years.  Now, there is nothing wrong with this approach: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound – but does anyone actually write an objective and recite these five steps as they write one?  Almost never! In fact, 86% of objectives aren’t SMART and most have one big problem….

Consider these ‘objectives’: ‘Take responsibility for X’, ‘Lead the project’, ‘Be more proactive…’, ‘Share best practice around Y’, ‘Raise your profile’…

Here’s the problem: these are subjective, full of buzzwords but most importantly they aren’t RESULT-focused. 

Indeed, most people will argue they have ‘done’ the objective and will therefore lead to a ‘were they actually achieved?’ debate in many cases.  This becomes even more contentious if the objectives have been tied to reward or ratings!

So what can you do?

‘Lightbulb’ has a unique five-step approach to writing powerful objectives that are SMART but also contain one magic ingredient for the RESULTS you want …

At work, we get a ‘well done’, pat on the back, recognition, pay rise, promotion etc when we do something that ‘can’t be guaranteed’, so all of our objectives must finish with this ‘jeopardy’ element.

  • Kicking a football is an activity, scoring a goal is a result;
  • Writing a document is an activity, the document not having to be amended too much by others is a result.
  • Hitting deadlines, beating budgets are all ‘well-done’ results.

So, to make an objective result-focused we add the ‘can’t be guaranteed’ test as in the examples above.

Using Lightbulb’s ‘Five-Steps for Powerful Objective Setting’, some example results-focused objectives are as follows;

  • To improve quality of reporting, achieve 90% accuracy when my manager carries out ‘random sample checks’ on reports each week – 90% to be the standard in two months’ time
  • To help you hit our new clients target, achieve X number of attendees requesting further information/expressing interest in our services after the next three networking events
  • To help me become more self-sufficient, reduce the number of times my manager has to resolve last-minute issues I could have anticipated/handled earlier to no more than one or two a week so that we are at this ‘new normal’ level in two months time.
  • To help you get promoted, improve your presentation skills so that you are able to answer 100% of questions asked/handle all audience objections each time – measured by asking a sample of the audience each time you present across the next three months

All of the objectives above have the ‘can’t be guaranteed’ measure attached to them.  With skill, attitude and knowledge the individual should be able to achieve them – and they get a ‘well-done’ when they do.

To find out more, contact Paul Marsh, Client Trainer and Founder at Lightbulb.  Their training is all about practical, plain-English, no-fluff expertise that challenges the clichés and apparent ‘best practices’ to give you techniques and tools you can actually do something with. Be it opting for a memorable and punchy workshop, ditching your annual performance appraisals and reimagining how you manage performance: everything is about keeping things jargon-free and painless!

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