Goal Setting for Greater Impact

December 21, 2020

Red Office Folder with Inscription Goals on Office Desktop with Office Supplies and Modern Laptop

Everyone can acknowledge that 2020 has been a year like no other. Leading a team in this new reality has reinforced for me the importance of good leadership practices relevant to communication, engagement, expectation setting and accountability. Based on my experience, I recommend leaders incorporate a few strategies to maximize team impact.

First, it is vital to ensure that you are staying connected to your team members and those individuals responsible for doing the work. They are undoubtedly facing unique situations, and heightened levels of personal and professional stress. As a leader, this will require you to take a more deliberate approach to your communication – different communication methods, frequency, etc. — in recognition of their circumstances. We also know that maintaining that basic human connection that we are wired for is important.

Second, you need to make sure that you schedule time for planning what needs to be accomplished. Leaders should be ruthless in prioritizing what you and your team will do, and more importantly what you won’t. Planning takes on new meaning during a pandemic. There are many more things to think through to ensure that you are meeting the needs of your internal and external stakeholders. You may find that it is more difficult for you and your team members to stay engaged and focused when managing increased and conflicting responsibilities such as child care, assisting with remote schooling, coping with illness and the loss of individuals we care for deeply. Dedicated planning time will allow you to prioritize critical items to make sure they will get their due attention.

And finally, as a leader, you’ll want to demonstrate flexibility and agility to adjust plans as new information and needs emerge. It is important to have a structured process to discuss the progress of plans with an eye to new information and emerging realities. So as 2021 approaches and we begin planning for the new year, what processes can be implemented to facilitate more effective communication, planning, flexibility and agility?  At YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, we use a goal setting process called SMARTIE Goals.

SMARTIE Goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Ambitious
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound
  • Inclusive and Equitable



Strategic Initiative: ______________________________________________________________

(Strategic Initiatives are directly linked to programmatic & functional priorities)


Define target.



Set criteria that people can use to assess whether an action has been met. Data includes, but is not limited to:

  • Weekly check-ins
  • Quantitative data
  • Feedback from key stakeholders



The goal should be a stretch for the organization or an individual. What does that look like?



The goal should be obtainable, given the organization’s resources and expertise.


Time Bound

There are clear deadlines for completion of the work.


Inclusion & Equity

When creating a goal, consider how to be encompassing of all groups and individuals in an equitable way.


Updates and data gleaned from regular check-ins:



Download as a Word Doc

Next Steps

While this process is beneficial, don’t expect overnight changes in team outcomes. Goal setting requires finding a balance between trusting your team to get the work done and providing a sufficient amount of support and accountability. Here are some steps to guide you in the process.

Step 1:  Assign the responsibilities and align on expectations.

Make sure your team members have a clear picture of what you hope to accomplish and how their goals align with the broader business objectives. Paint a clear picture for your team about what success looks like when the goal is achieved. 


Step 2: Don’t delegate and disappear.

Many leaders make this mistake. They set expectations, hand the work off and assume it will just happen. To ensure that things stay on track, build in periodic check-ins to assess progress. The last item on the SMARTIE Goal form helps frame these discussions. The check-ins will allow you to make adjustments or know when to pivot, which is especially important in our current environment.


Step 3: Use this as a developmental and learning opportunity for your teams.

When assigning “owners” to your organizational strategic initiatives, look at what skills will be required for success and what skills may be strengthened in the process. Research has shown that 70% of adult learning happens by doing. Individuals who are the owners of a strategic initiative (SMARTIE Goal) have a great opportunity for an on-the-job learning experience.


Step 4: Build in ways to communicate and share progress on your initiatives and SMARTIE Goals with all team members.

All members of the team need to understand how they are interconnected. They need to know what is important to the organization, and what has been elevated as a priority.  One way to accomplish this is to host a virtual All Staff meeting and share your SMARTIE Goals for the New Year. This will meet the need for enhanced communication, and allow time for questions and potential insights that could help support or enhance the goals. Once you have introduced the SMARTIE Goals, give regular updates during staff meetings.

For me, one of the best outcomes from implementing this process has been witnessing the professional growth of the team. Many of our team members accomplished their SMARTIE Goals, and for those who fell short, they still benefited from the collective learning and growth. Happy SMARTIE Goal Setting!


Shelley-Bromberek-Lambert-HeadshotShelley Bromberek-Lambert has spent over 30 years in the field of education helping organizations solve complex problems by creating and implementing practical, effective strategies and processes that leverage their number one asset their people. Shelley is a person who is guided by organizational mission and vision and knows how to translate those principles into strategic and practical applications that strengthens the organizations she work with. She is the currently the Chief Reimagination Officer for YWCA Metropolitan Chicago that operates the second largest Child Care Resource & Referral Agency in Illinois. 



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Topics: Business Operations for CCR&Rs, Best Practices

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