How to be a SMART Manager – Part 2

November 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

If you want to be a smart manager, you need to use the SMA2RT tool. SMA2RT stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Aligned, Realistic, and Time-Bound.SMART objectives and goals tag cloudIn my last post I covered the first four criteria. Here I’ll finish up with the last two, Realistic and Time-Bound.

R = REALISTIC: I find it very common in companies to establish ‘stretch goals’ for their employees.  How hard is too hard when putting some ‘stretch’ into an objective?  In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi describes a person’s optimal state of consciousness which he calls “flow”.

Cziksentmihalyi asks us to consider both the level of challenge of the work and the person’s skill level.  When people are “in the Zone” the activity is the right balance between challenge and skill.  If the assignment is too easy people become bored so they can lose motivation in their job. But, if people are given a task that is too difficult for their skill level, we throw them into anxiety or stress – which may freeze people from getting started.  They simply feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.  How do you get them “in the Zone”?

Zone Chart

Here are some options:

  • Break down the task into steps.  Help them with the first few steps so they build confidence.
  • Assess the skill set of the employee and provide them with the skill enhancement they need. This might look like training or, perhaps, a partnership with an experienced employee to help them build their skill.
  • It also might mean a careful analysis of the roadblocks in their way that are making the task challenging.  Do they need more resources (time, money, support)? Is there a political obstacle where they will need your savvy to negotiate?
  • You’ll also want to consider any external factors that might get in the way of completion. Figure out a plan for what you could do to mitigate any possible problems.
  • Create milestones and checkpoints along the way so that too much time doesn’t go by before help is offered when they are feeling stuck.
  • Tell them who to go to for help when they do run into difficulties.

And for that occasional boredom factor (when the task is too easy or repetitive for the skill level):

  • See if you can extend the task so that it takes on some of the challenges that might be upstream or downstream in the flow.
  • If it is really a no-mind task – ask the person to think of a way to automate it or redesign it so it can be handled at a lower pay level in the organization.

T = Time-Bound/Trackable: Probably the easiest part of SMA2RT to implement.  People need a specific completion date – not just ASAP.  And you want to put in check-in points along the way.  Don’t wait to 10 months to see how it is going.  Establish a series of checkpoints to be supportive in keeping objectives on track.  Many companies call this the 1:1 meeting.  I’ll cover that in the next post (be sure to sign up for my email list so you don’t miss any updates!)

Your assignment for this week: 

Finish checking your own objectives using the SMA2RT acronym and then schedule meetings with your people to get their objectives set (or SMAR2Ted up) for this year.

And feel free to leave a comment on how the SMA2RT tool is working for you…