In my last post, School Goals: Impediments or Enablers? I references an article from Leader IQ titled Are Smart Goals Dumb? The article’s author argues that traditional goals built around elements that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) may actually be impediments to success and encourage mediocre and poor performance. SMART goals seem to say “don’t push beyond your resources, don’t bite off more than you can chew, play it safe and stay within your limitations.”
The author discussed a study looking at those aspects of goal-setting that could truly be used to predict whether employees will achieve at high levels (4,182 workers from 397 organizations were involved in the study). The study revealed eight predictors of whether goals would actually assist employees with achieving great results. Following are the predictors in order of statistical significance.
- I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals
- I will have to learn new skills to achieve my assigned goals for this year
- My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company
- I actively participated in creating my goals for this year
- I have access to any formal training that I will need to accomplish my goals
- My goals for this year will push me out of my comfort zone
- My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me (customers, the community, etc.)
- My goals are aligned with the organization’s top priorities for this year
One thing jumps out–issues related to SMART goals are not included in this list. A correlation analysis actually found that responses to questions about achievable goals had no meaningful correlation with high achievement. Secondly, it seems clear that for people to achieve great things, it is important that they be pushed beyond their comfort zone and learn new skills. A third point made clear in the study was that goals must be much more than words on paper; they must “leap off the paper.” The author says that a goal must be “so vividly described that that people can feel how great it will be to achieve it. It has to sing to them, to touch the deepest recesses of their brain.” And lastly, a goal must be bigger than ourselves; we have to identify who will be enriched, and they must be absolutely necessary or they will not help employees achieve great things.
The study identified a need for an entirely new goals-setting process and the author noted the book Hundred Percenters in which a new framework called HARD Goals is advanced. HARD Goals are:
- Heartfelt: My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me
- Animated: I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals
- Required: My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company
- Difficult: I will have to learn new skills and leave my comfort zone to achieve my assigned goals for this year
In summary, goals that inspire must be so vividly described that people can picture how great it will feel to achieve them, and they should push employees outside their comfort zone to learn new skills. Schools and school districts might consider the HARD framework when formulating school improvement goals, professional growth planning, and other goals. Of course, state law and regulations are critical, but alone, they do little to inspire employees to achieve great things.