You’re in a good place. You’ve found C.L.A.R.I.T.Y in your career path, and you’ve set S.M.A.R.T. goals to get there. You’ve made it farther than most people ever will. There’s just one thing missing: accountability. And without that, your chances of checking those goals off your list go down tremendously.
“If you have set your intentions but you choose inaction, you are only insulting yourself.” – Mike Regina.
How do we make ourselves accountable so that we are setting and checking off goals? In the business world, people often utilize Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. Think of KPIs as your report card for your SMART goals. Did you achieve your Specific and Measurable (the “S” and “M” in SMART) goal? If not, let’s evaluate what happened.
KPIs ask what degree of your measurable goal you did achieve. If you did something but what you did is not measurable, your goal may not be SMART after all.
If what you did was measurable, but you didn’t achieve the goal, what was the reason? Was it outside of your control or within your power? If you chose “outside,” then take a second look and consider whether there was something – perhaps above and beyond what was expected – that you could have done to change the outcome.
For example, let’s say your goal was “Demonstrate my interest in Job Opening ____ by submitting my cover letter and resume.” And let’s say you did precisely that: you submitted a cover letter and resume. SMART goal met? I’ll give you a “maybe.” Let’s look at this further and see if your KPI merits the top grade.
Using this example, let’s get into the details. It’s often helpful to think about what’s known as Key Performance Questions, or KPQs. Sure you “demonstrated your interest,” but did the job opening give a list of qualifications? We’ll call this KPQ1. If you have the job opening qualifications, did you ensure your cover letter and resume collectively addressed each one? You may have technically “demonstrated your interest” in the job, but did you do it as completely as possible so that a hiring manager can quickly see your qualifications?
Let’s consider a KPQ2: Is there someone relevant you know who could endorse your submission? If so, consider letting them know that you sent in that cover letter and resume. Again, you technically did demonstrate your interest. But what if you took an extra step that is within your control? What if you contacted Jeff, or Karen, or both, and told them, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know I’m excited about the job opening, and I submitted my cover letter and resume….” Perhaps you ask them what they think can make you stand out above the competition if you didn't already in your preliminary research. These are all ways you can set yourself apart from the crowd. This is how you knock a SMART goal out of the park.
Steve Jobs once said, “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” I believe this also applies to your SMART goals. How can you take your goals to the next level? How can you approach them with the excitement and passion that Jobs is talking about?
Turning back to KPIs, another way to view performance is to turn simple results-oriented data into open questions that prompt you to rethink the best way to get there. Don’t stop at “Did I meet my sales goal?” Ask instead, “How can I make this product more attractive than it’s ever been?” Or “What results aside from sales numbers do I want to achieve?” Another great open-ended question: “What aspect of this product is important to the client, and how can I emphasize or improve it?”
I’m not suggesting – at all – that you get rid of your SMART goals. Those stay in place, and hopefully, you have confirmed that each goal is both Specific and Measurable (as well as being Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). But when looking at how you can quantify your performance in achieving those goals – how you can be accountable – think about more than just a metric. Sure, you applied for the job. But did you nail it by listing all of your relevant qualifications and reaching out in all the ways you could actively impact your application positively?
Likewise, if it’s a sales goal, don’t stop at “did I meet the sales goal?” Dig into how to exceed sales goals in the long term, what drives the sales, and how you can bring something to the table that no one else is doing.
“Burn” with passion, and your energy will make KPIs not just easily achievable; you’ll redefine how to nail goal after goal.
Now, Go Forth and Conquer!