Goal Setting for Success

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Goal setting – and, more importantly, goal achievement – is critical to success in all aspects of work and life.

A mentoring relationship is one situation where goal setting makes a big difference to outcomes. In our Pollinate Mentoring Programs, we recommend that mentors and mentees discuss goals at the beginning of their relationship in order to set the mentoring agenda.

Here are some key strategies for effective goal setting:

Establishing intent

Before setting specific goals, it’s important to establish intent – the first step to getting things done. At this early stage you begin to visualize the outcome you want to manifest, but you may not have enough information yet to get really specific about how things are going to happen. That’s ok. By stating your intent out loud – announcing it to others in a shared space – you begin to draw people to you to make things happen. In a mentoring situation, consider: “What is my intent for this mentoring relationship?  What do I want to get out of this experience with my mentor?”

SMART goals

Setting specific, measurable goals leads to higher performance, first demonstrated by the findings of Dr. Edwin Locke in 1968. There are two types of goals to consider:  SMART goals and developmental goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific – the goal should identify a specific action or event that will take place. It answers the questions: “Who? and What?”
  • Measurable – the goal should include a way of measuring the expected results or outcomes. It answers the question: “How do we know it’s done?”
  • Attainable – the goal should challenge you to do your best, but it should also be achievable. It answers the question: “Is it possible?”
  • Results-oriented – the goal should solve a performance challenge. It answers the question: “Does it have impact?”
  • Time-bound – there should be enough time to achieve the goal, but not too much time, which can affect project performance. It answers the question: “By when?”

SMART goal examples

Here are some examples of SMART goals a mentee could work on with a mentor:

  • I will acquire three new clients within four months by asking for referrals and do targeted networking.
  • In the next 6 weeks, I will create a business case to get my manager’s sign-off on hiring a senior project manager for the next fiscal year.
  • By June 30, I will identify three metrics that will define success for our new employee recognition program.

All these goal-setting examples are specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound.

Developmental goals

While SMART goals are ideal for specific assignments and specific outcomes, developmental goals are more general and can change over time. Well-constructed developmental goals promote longer-term conversations and learning through a mentoring situation.

The idea of expansion is a key characteristic of developmental goals. Developmental goals expand thought and discussion, encouraging dialogue, which is critical to the mentoring process. Contrast this idea of expansion with the narrower, actionable focus of SMART goals.

Developmental goals are also about gaining general knowledge and skills. They enhance your ability to explore a topic and analyze your career track in the context of your interests.

Here are some examples of developmental goals:

  • Learn how to delegate the tactical aspects of my role to my direct reports
  • Practice active listening
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the financial measures used to assess business performance

Goal setting is one thing: achieving your goals is quite another! See our Pollinate tips for goal achievement.




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