I’m sure you’ve heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals, maybe you’ve received some training on goal setting showing you how to write S.M.A.R.T. goals; and as a concept, it’s been around for a very long time. Google tells me that George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham wrote, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives.” in 1981.

You’ll recall that S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

S – Specific 

M – Measurable

A – Assignable – a more modern use of A is Achievable/Attainable

R – Realistic

T – Time based

When I speak with groups about goals, I almost always ask if 1) everyone has heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals, and 2) what do they think of them. Amongst the groans the responses I hear include:

“They are so boring.”

“It might be the way they’re taught but they don’t inspire me at all.”

“Please don’t make us do S.M.A.R.T. goals!”

In fairness to the lads who created S.M.A.R.T. goals I do on occasion meet someone who loves them.

There are three elements missing that make a big difference to goal engagement, productivity, action and success, and they are not discussed as being critical to the overall success of a goal. They are emotion, help and review.


With an emotional – a desire or want – connection to the goal it will make the getting tougher when life gets in the way and throws challenges at you to tempt you off your goal getting path.

If you’re not excited by the goal then it might not be the right goal. If you can hear the voices in your head give you excuses to not work to get your goal; when you hear yourself say, “I can’t…”; then as Marie Forleo says in her book, Everything is Figureoutable, swap out the word can’t for won’t. Don’t kick yourself for not wanting the goal, be glad you’ve found out and can refocus on what you do want.

In coaching and mentoring sessions I go through a goal getting commitment check process that checks how the client feels about the goal. Try this:

Out of a score of ten, how excited, driven, connected are you to your goal?

If you score eight or less, check that the goal is the right one.

If you score nine or ten then create your imaginary fridge magnet. What word (or image) would you like to see every time you go to your fridge that would remind and trigger your excitement for getting your goal?

One of my management coaching clients, JT, gave his goal a nine out of ten and was convincing in his resolve and emotional connection to his goal. He couldn’t think of a ‘fridge magnet word’ so he drew an image and then put a copy of the image on the fridge in the staff room and another at home right next to his kids artwork!

What about goals related to work, the imposed goals of implementing annual or strategic plans? Great question: Yes, it might not be a obvious or easy to have an emotional connection to the organisation’s goals, and still you could find a benefit. How will achieving this goal benefit you?

  • You will been seen as a do-er, as reliable.
  • It might open up other interesting challenges or opportunities for you.
  • It might be something add to your CV.
  • You could even have your boss write a recommendation on your LinkedIn profile highlighting the success of the goal. [LinkedIn is so much more than an online CV, it is also a company branding and company ambassador social network.]

A manager of a team, ask the team to identify the benefits to them for achieving the goal. If you want a more engaged and productive team – ask them to identify their emotional connection.



It’s more than okay to ask for help. This can be a tough challenge for some yet when we reach out and ask for help we give the gift of valuing someone’s expertise and support. Asking for help could be a simple request for someone to help you stay accountable; it could be to have some mentoring; it could be being part of a mastermind group; or engaging an expert to do some element of the goal to help you move it forward; or learning a skill from an expert (be it Youtube or a training program).

I firmly believe that this element needs to have accountability as a minimum! If no other help is sought, create accountability for yourself. Help you team members to set up accountability.



Review your goals. It’s all well and good to write goals but if you never …

✓ refer back to them,

✓ check them,

✓ use them to keep you on track, or review them

…you’ll most likely never achieve them.

In my work with organisations, I often hear, “We’ve done the planning, we’ve written goals and actions, but we don’t seem to achieve them.” There was lots of excitement and hype about the planning activity and the creation of the wonderful plan …but… the plan is now sitting on a self gathering dust. No execution! The key reasons the goals weren’t achieved starts with forgetting or neglecting to place just as much importance, focus and energy on implementing the plan as was put into the plan creation. Quite simply the plan was not reviewed, it wasn’t kept alive and part of the regular day to day conversations within the team / business. There was no execution and no review. The goals must make sense all the way from a strategic overview, planning process, development of operational and action plans, to implementation and celebration of achievement!

Here’s an alternative:


S.M.O.O.T.H.E.R. Goal Getting:

S – Specific: Like S.M.A.R.T. the more specific you can articulate your goal the more clarity you will have working towards achieving it.

M – Measurable: As management guru Peter Drucker says, “What gets measured, gets managed.” How will you know you’ve achieved your goal.

O – Operational Plan – Break the goal into your operational plan, what one thing do you need to do first. Make your goal achievable by creating the plan.

O – Obstacles – what will get in the way of you achieving your goal. Get ahead of your own game and consider all the physical, emotional, environmental objections and obstacles that might trip you up. (This includes the well meaning, loving friends and family who try to steer you ‘back to safety’.) Identify them and what you will do to counter them should they actually show up.

T – Timebound – when will you achieve your goal. Add milestones as you go.

I love and wear the colours red and blue as it significantly reduces time in deciding what to wear each day. I also love buying new clothes! I’m telling you this because I have a milestone goal every year: if I hit a certain level of that goal by the 30th June (the halfway mark) I give myself permission to buy an expensive, quality, tailored outfit! What milestones and rewards can you set for yourself or your team. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, calls this habit stacking: You can X when you reach Y. I call it a reward and an incentive for hitting the mark by the due date, ie being timebound.

H – Help – who can help you? Even if all you want is an accountability buddy, who can help you stay the course? If you need to learn a new skill or engage an expert to help you get your goal, identify who that will be. Warning: don’t use researching as a form of procrastinating starting your goal getting!

E – Emotional Connection – Do you love it? Okay, love might be a bit over the top, yet the point remains that you will have a much better chance of getting your goal when you can truly connect with the goal, or the outcome you’ll get.

R – Review – When will you review your progress? All too often we can shift into the next goal or task before allowing a moment to pause and reflect. Stop and review how you’re progressing. Ask yourself: “What have I learned from this experience?”


Try S.M.O.O.T.H.E.R. goal getting, add them to your weekly meeting agenda, talk about them, make them part of the conversation around the workplace, ask for help and accountability, offer to be an accountability buddy, post the image on the fridge! Add key milestones and due dates into calendars and set reminders.

A Harvard Business study found that the 14% who have goals are 10 times more successful than those without goals. Three percent with written goals are three times more successful than the 14% with unwritten goals. The goal of this post is to make goal getting doable! Try writing down your S.M.O.O.T.H.E.R. goal and go get it!

I’d love to know your thoughts…

If your team needs support with goal getting, please get in touch.

Oh, and JT did get his goal!


  • Marie Forleo Image: https://images.app.goo.gl/nrhpga136FkuXPEk6
  • Barak Obama Image: https://images.app.goo.gl/P11JRqvQGAip4cwC8