How To Develop SMART Objectives For Your Team That Actually Drive Results

Steps to Effective and Foolproof Objectives

Let’s face it. At one time or another we’ve all thought that the process of setting objectives is daunting, a chore and something we’d rather not do. Let’s think about how silly that is for a second.

Objectives are about giving direction and clarity to those in your team so that they can achieve results and generally SMASH IT! If they don’t quite manage that, then good objectives give you a great platform to give really constructive feedback so that your team can perform well next time instead.

Don’t be silly. Follow the steps below to help you set great objectives and watch your team become more effective than ever before.

Get Your Plan in Place

First things first, get your plan or roadmap in place. Trust me – once you have a plan, setting objectives will become much easier. Why? Because it’s crystal clear what the objectives should be as they will be contributing to the initiatives in your plan! It doesn’t matter if the plan isn’t perfect or for the whole year – getting a plan that your team has contributed to creating will help with the following steps.

Align With the Plan!

This is key. You don’t want your team focused on tasks that aren’t going to help you achieve your goal! The whole team needs to pull in the same direction. Alignment with the plan is great because everyone knows how they are contributing to the plan, the team and overall company goals.

Make Objectives SMART

SMART objectives. This terms gets used a lot but I’m pretty sure a large proportion of people don’t know exactly what it means (for starters there’s always a lot of debate as to what the A and R stand for!). I would guess that 80-85% of managers think that they write SMART objectives. But are they actually SMART?

I’m not going to break SMART down for you now – there are thousands of articles online. I just want to emphasize why it’s important.

Setting SMART objectives makes everything easier down the line. Especially when you come to appraising performance against objectives. If objectives aren’t SMART then it’s almost impossible to give good praise or constructive feedback. This means you’ll struggle to develop or get the best out of your team. Not a good place to be.

QUICK TEST: which one is SMART?


Increase your sales by 10%


Impact Score (Priority) Strategy Objective Measurable Time-Phased
10 Generate New Business Close new business from our key prospects list in the US Home Improvements Sector Generate $10,000 from new business 31/10/2016

Set the Priority

Pretty simple. Make it clear which objectives are the highest priority so that these get completed first. That way you'll reach your goal faster and add massive value sooner!

Align With Personal Strengths AND Areas for Development

This is common sense. An objective is more likely to be achieved if you’ve assigned it to the individual with complementary strengths. However, don’t let this stop you making objectives ambitious. Setting objectives that will push your team out of their comfort zone will ensure learning and development which is crucial for professional growth.

Weekly Catch Ups Are Key

Follow up on objectives weekly. Make sure your direct report provides a written update before your weekly one-on-one. Firstly, this will make your meetings much more efficient. Secondly, it will make sure you are on the right track and will allow you to identify if there are any blocks or issues in the way that are preventing objectives being completed as agreed.

Improve Objectives Each Time You Set Them

Trust me, you'll probably never set the perfect objective. I almost certainly haven’t. At the end of each quarter – ask yourself and your team:

  • Can we actually measure whether an objective was completed or not?
  • Looking back, were the objectives really SMART?
  • Was something set that wasn't aligned with the plan / roadmap?

This process will help you to question whether the objectives were successfully designed to get the outcome that you wanted. Running through this reflection process will ensure that you go out and write better objectives time and time again.

When Someone Asks “Where Are My Objectives”? Ask Back “Where Are YOUR Objectives?”

Encourage your direct reports to write their own objectives. I know this sounds a little odd but it will encourage them to think about whether their objectives are SMART enough to work towards effectively. This also helps to ensure that they are on board with the team goals which is crucial.

Alternatively, you could ask a direct report to write objectives for someone else in the team or perhaps someone who they are dotted line managing. This is a great tip to encourage them to understand how to write better objectives for themselves and eventually their own direct reports.

IMPORTANT NOTE – Getting your team to set their own objectives could be extremely dangerous if you haven’t got step one in place! If you've set the right direction, got a clear roadmap and got the right people in your team then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be more self-managed and able to successfully write their own objectives that contribute to the plan. Don’t forget to work with them to hone their objectives though!

Recap: The Objectives Checklist

  • Get a plan in place
  • Align objectives with your plan
  • Make objectives SMART
  • Set the priorities
  • Align objectives with personal strengths and areas for development
  • Plan weekly catch ups
  • Task your team with writing their own objectives
  • Improve objectives each time by reflecting on previous results

A finishing note. Objectives are really important. These steps will make it easier for you set better ones. Don’t neglect them. Get them right and watch your team fly!