According to a paper by George Doran, there is a S.M.A.R.T. way to grow to be an effective leader. The mnemonic stands for goals to be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related. It all sounds great except I stumbled upon research that suggests more needs to be done with goal setting for effective leadership.

Don’t Restrain Yourself!

This new research is suggesting that the S.M.A.R.T. goals have a tendency to restrain an individual so he or she becomes afraid to step out of the acceptable mold. I get it because time and again I have seen how people balk at trying something innovative (dare I suggest – creative?) in solving a problem. For example, you are assigned a task to sell a product and reach a certain target but you stop yourself from using mobile marketing to sell your product because it isn’t in the manual. The result? You get lower sales than your colleague and possibly experience difficulties reaching your target.

In a leadership questionnaire given to over 4,000 employees, surprising results were seen about their goal setting behaviour and attitude:

  • A mere 15% agree that their goals will get them to better positions
  • A mere 13% agree that their goals will help them in maximizing their potential

So sure, setting goals is great but achieving them – now that’s an entirely different story and the more challenging thought is that no one has the formula for you. You see, goal setting and goal achievement is a personal journey. What works for one person may not work for the next.

Leaving your Comfort Zone

To achieve anything significant in your life, you have to be ready to leave your comfort zone. It’s great to have a list of “What I want to achieve by age so-and-so” but nothing will happen to this list until you get out and do something you’re not already doing. It’s hard to imagine anyone achieving goals doing what they have been doing for the past months. That is, unless you win the lottery or get lucky in a freak stroke of genius. Therefore, to achieve goals, you have to:

  • Learn new skills
  • Take chances, be bold
  • Forget about what others will say
  • Choose your goal dramatically with both your head and heart because you have to really want them, for them to be realised
  • And have goals that are bigger than you

The Science of Hard Goals

Go beyond the S.M.A.R.T. concept because it can keep you fenced in. Instead, create hard goals. H.A.R.D. goals is a concept by author Mark Murray which tests your ambitions and limits. These kinds of goals are intense, emotional, difficult, and absolutely necessary. It also refers to the mnemonic: Heartfelt, Animated, Required, Difficult.

The advantage of using these types of goals as compared to goals that are treated like a New Year’s resolution is that they are special. A lot of the goals we make for ourselves, we can live without achieving them and not feel like we’ve lost anything. This is why New Year resolutions are almost never achieved! Hard goals have to something we MUST achieve and there are not a lot of those in our lives. We can live comfortably without a million pounds. We can live well without a 5* all inclusive holiday. We won’t lose sleep over losing touch with certain people but we cannot live without being with someone special or having food on the table.

Focus on the hard goals. The goals that you cannot see yourself without or will cause you sleepless nights and long term stress if you don’t achieve them. I don’t endorse Mark over George (the 2 authors I have mentioned) as both have valid points but I do agree with Mark that if you want to set goals, choose your goals wisely so you don’t get into the habit of dropping goals just like that. Forget about making New Year’s resolutions. That’s just a tradition- a sad, depressing tradition especially if you find yourself listing the same goals year in and year out.

Instead, start thinking of what you want to achieve right now. Expect to have a long list. Then, start crossing out those that you really don’t care about. You can add new goals. It’s important to list down everything so bring this list with you wherever you go. This process of add in-take out should take you more than a week. It could take you more than a month but eventually you will uncover your deepest desires and find that which will bring you the most satisfaction. Then, you can get to work. 2016 is your year – make it a great one.

If you would like support in achieving your HARD goals with 1:1 coaching, contact me now for a free initial call to see how I might help you.