Several years ago, I started doing something a bit unusual: setting my “New Year Resolutions” in September. My birthday is in September, so it feels natural to start *my* new year this month. And September feels like a fresh start for many ways: a transition out of summer, when schedules and routines were relaxed for fun in the sun; back to school (or re-focusing at work); cooler nights and fresh autumn mornings.

In fact, I think you should be setting goals in September regardless of if you set them at the start of the year. This is a great time to reassess your progress for the year and realign how you’re spending your time to ensure you accomplish what is necessary by calendar year’s end. This is especially true at work, where you likely have year-end goals for yourself and your team (and maybe even bonuses contingent on achieving them).

But simply moving your goal-setting to September won’t guarantee you set good goals and achieve them. That’s why I rely on SMART goals - goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely - to help me make a plan for success. Here’s an example:

Instead of setting the age-old goal of staying (or getting) in shape, I break the goal down into specific steps:

  • Specific: I will run one 10K race and one sprint triathlon in the next year.
  • Measurable: By next September, I will clearly know if I achieved my goal (did I run the races or not?).
  • Attainable: I’m physically able to train for these races, and can budget to pay for the entry fees.
  • Realistic: I know that with some effort I can make time in my schedule to train appropriately for these races. I also know that while challenging, I have done these races before and can do them again.
  • Timely: I must complete these races one year from now; it’s not an open-ended “when I get to it” or “when I feel ready” goal.

While I set annual personal goals, SMART goals can help you evaluate the pace of your workplace and ensure your team is optimally aligned to achieve their objectives.

How? Consider how you can apply the SMART method to evaluating the annual goals for your team and making a plan to achieve them by year’s end:

  • Specific: Do your employees have a clear understanding of the scope of their job? Have you outlined actionable goals for them to achieve by the end of the year, goals that are revisited regularly to ensure they’re on the right track? Or are your employees unsure of their responsibilities?
  • Measurable: As you work with your team to set goals, make sure they can be measured. “Improve customer satisfaction” is a great goal, but how will your team know if they’ve achieved it? “Receive an average 4 out of 5 stars on all customer follow-up surveys sent two weeks after purchase” is a goal that can be measured against over time.
  • Attainable: It’s important to avoid setting “pie in the sky” goals for your team. While you want to foster a culture that dreams big, if the goals you set for your team members are too lofty, they won’t be able to focus on actions that get results.
  • Realistic: Not only do the goals you set have to be attainable, they have to be realistically achieved with the team you have. If you push your team members too hard, expecting them to be chained to their desk or their laptop 60 hours a week, your employees will burn out (and studies show they’ll be less productive, too).
  • Timely: While goals can be ongoing, you must be able to evaluate them at regular intervals. Break down the big (though still attainable and realistic) goals and state how you will measure them quarterly and annually. By giving your team milestones to achieve, they will be much more likely to succeed and even exceed your expectations.

If you haven’t set SMART goals for your team this year, it’s not too late! Using this method, you can help your team succeed while feeling heard and supported. You’ll be amazed at the improvement in both productivity and morale!

Is your team working hard but running into roadblocks? You may need to optimize your pace. We can help!