Common questions about setting SMART objectives

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We ran our first webinar of the year this week ‘Meaningful Conversations; setting objectives’ and would firstly like to thank all those who attended; it proved to be a very popular topic and one which clearly people felt they needed to know more about as they found themselves (or their Line Managers) setting objectives at the start of the year.

We shared our own model for ‘Meaningful Conversations’ which for us underpins all those performance management conversations which should be happening year-round – A clarity of purpose and building trust were key dimensions with this approach.

Then looking at SMART, we examined the origins of this theory, and critically, how SMART only works if  the principle findings from the research are applied; co-created objectives, ones that provide stretch and stimulate development, and which are supported with feedback along the way.

A key insight we wished to share was that the Line Manager’s role in all of this, was less about their ability to set objectives, but rather their ability to facilitate their direct report to set those objectives.

In that way, the key skill of the Line Manager became that of questioning; questions which helped the individual shape the objective, challenge it against the SMART template,  and finally have the individual commit to the objective by writing it down with clarity.

Towards the end, we took some questions, and it was interesting to note the direction of these – many queried what to do if the organisational goals change? How do you handle this?

We suggested that objectives should always be fluid, subject to review, and such a review taking place at a sensible point in time after it has been set and before it is due to end i.e. If it’s a 12 month goal, then a review 2 months in would be a good intervention point – is it still achievable? Is it still relevant?

The latter question would address any such organisational changes which had occurred and revise the objective accordingly (or scrap it). Better that than a meaningless objective pursued until the end and then disappointedly picked over at the end of year performance appraisal.

Our next ‘Meaningful Conversations’ webinar will look at ‘Giving Feedback’ – if you would like advance notice, just register your interest with an email to





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Free Webinar – Meaningful Conversations; setting objectives

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Tuesday 28th January@2pm (GMT)

Join us for the first of a series of webinars which will cover all of the key performance management conversations which Line Managers have to conduct with their team.

Kicking off, we look at how to help your team set the right objectives; get this step right and performance management becomes a whole lot simpler and more effective!

To register your interest simply click through to our Eventbrite registration page here 

Our series of ‘Meaningful Conversations’ webinars and classroom-based training modules build the capability and confidence of Line Managers, so that they can not only follow a process that works, but critically they can approach these performance management conversations in a way which builds and preserves the trust in the relationships they have with their direct reports.

This one hour webinar explores the key elements which make a setting objective conversation successful:

  • Takeaway our ‘Meaningful Conversations’ model which is fundamental to any successful performance management conversation
  • Discover why SMART is an effective template for creating objectives
  • Learn the key steps of shaping, challenging and committing to ensure effective objectives are set
  • Takeaway a template of diagnostic questions which will help you facilitate SMART objective setting
We hope you can join us next Tuesday 28th.



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Squeezing the lemon; 360 Degree Feedback and Coaching

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This brief news article on the British Psychological Society website highlights how coaching has a greater impact on performance than does training or 360 degree feedback – instinctively this feels right, but perhaps is arriving at an incomplete analysis.

Coaching has the ability to create focussed action on the part of an individual; it sets out the desired goal to achieve, explores the reality of where someone is, challenges the individual to consider different routes to achieving this aim and then bears witness to what they finally decide to commit to by way of action and change.

This change however, is rarely achieved without some catalyst; effectively handled, 360 degree feedback is an excellent method to act as a catalyst – it raises self-awareness and builds acceptance of what needs to change, and in doing so, enables individuals to form more measured goals to pursue in the first place.

So whilst coaching may have a greater impact on performance than 360 degree feedback (or training, but I will keep that for another post!), I suspect if they extended the research and analysis, they would find that coaching AND 360 degree feedback has a greater impact on performance than does coaching alone.




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Why do so many New Year Resolutions fail?

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A Happy New Year to everyone from the team here at Bowland Solutions and wishing you the best for 2014.

I, along with no doubt countless others, made another attempt at setting out some New Year Resolutions; the top three/most popular are supposedly get fit, lose weight, save money – I confess I tend to mix those last two up…saving weight and losing money.

Nonetheless, with all best intent and enthusiasm, I find myself weeks into the year, sliding back into some old patterns and finally conceding defeat around January 23rd.

There is actually much research now around this annual ritual, identifying why we fail to stick to resolutions and how to succeed, which does offer some hope if, as with most things, you are prepared to expend the effort and time to go about this ritual in the most effective way.

What are these steps?

1. Breaking big goals down into smaller, measurable objectives – ‘Lose weight’ doesn’t cut it

2. Publicly declare your goals to others – tell friends & family; gain support and commit to people beyond just you

3. Clearly identify the benefits of achieving the goal – remind yourself why you are doing this

4. Regularly reward yourself for hitting those smaller objectives – keeps the motivation up

5. Monitor your progress – make it visible in some way as to how far you have come and what you are aiming for


I think the last consideration, and something I have certainly be guilty of before, is not to try and do too much – Pick one resolution, an important one, and go for it wholeheartedly.

Now, where did I leave that Custard Cream?



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