How to Achieve Your SMART Goal with Smart Delegation

It would be nice if simply setting a SMART goal meant instant success.  But the reality is you and your student organization need to follow up on every SMART goal you set.  You do this through delegation.  Delegating a SMART goal is a way of connecting your members to the group’s identity, but it’s important to do it properly.  Here’s where we tell you when to delegate a SMART goal, what to delegate, and how to do it.

When do you delegate a SMART goal?

Leaders tend to have immense powers of concentration, and so there’s usually a mistake that many leaders tend to make in common: they get so involved in their own thinking, they forget that there are others who can help.  You might say that in order to know when to delegate a SMART goal, you have to first remember to delegate the SMART goal in the first place.

It’s true that there are some things that you are naturally gifted with taking on yorself.  Be your own best judge when a SMART goal is something you are uniquely suited to complete.  But have some discretion.  Your group members are there to get things done.  When you ignore the resources they bring to the group, they will quickly lose interest.  With a SMART goal to handle themselves, they’ll feel unwelcome, unwanted, and distrusted.

Trusting others is just as much a talent as your ability to solve problems single-handedly.  Practice it regularly.  Oh yeah, and enjoy all the time it frees up for you!

What about the SMART goal do you delegate?

A central idea behind the SMART goal system is that they’re specific.  When you are delegating a SMART goal to members of your group, be specific about what you’re asking.  But be specific in a way that lets the SMART goal delegation know why their work is valuable to your team.

  1. Be clear about what the SMART goal is: explain how their task relates to the goal as a whole.  As we’ve said before, remember your audience: explain the goal in terms suited to your group members.
  2. Be specific about the relationship between the SMART goal and your organization.  This is particularly important, because it lets the delegates you’ve chosen envision themselves as belonging to a project larger than themselves, which is important to team-building.
  3. Explain why you’ve chosen this delegate.  Point out to the delegate any specific knowledge or experience they might have.  Maybe they don’t have any particular experience, except that you know him or her to be reliable and trustworthy: it doesn’t matter—just specify what you see in them.  Your delegates’ desire to live up to your expectations will be much higher when you can make it clear what you see in them.
  4. Finally, emphasize what amazing things that success will mean to the rest of your group.  Point out the specific ways that your group will benefit from the completion of this SMART goal.  This will drive home the sense that your delegation is an important part of the whole.

How do you delegate a SMART goal?

This is where it gets tricky.  If there has ever been an age-old mystery to leadership, how to delegate comes close to taking first prize.  Some people, you’ll find, are so self-motivated that you won’t get the chance to offer any feedback.  Others, in the meantime, will stop at nothing to get your opinion on a project every step of the way.  And yet between these complete opposite ends of the spectrum, it won’t seem like there is very much leeway: if you lean on one team member to seek more feedback, or try to encourage another to act more independently, you might be confronted with immediate pushback.

The best thing to do in these situations is to judge as precisely as possible which category your delegation belongs, and to respect their preference by proceeding with caution.  The biggest mistake you can make—and one which far too many leaders are guilty of—is to give people the wrong idea about their say over a project.  Too many leaders will suggest to the delegates on their team that they can tackle a SMART goal however they choose, and then the leaders will suddenly go back on what they said, revoke the delegates’ ownership, and re-do it all by themselves.  You’re the leader: remember that people aren’t mind readers.  If you have a very specific vision for how a promo flyer will look, what a Facebook event invitation will say, or which brand of pizza you’re going to serve at your meetings, then maybe you should be taking care of these things yourself rather than delegating them, and then confusing and frustrating your delegates.

Seeing your SMART goal through

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t follow up.  Following up on a SMART goal is sometimes necessary to getting the goal finished.  But just like there are good and bad ways of delegating, there are good and bad ways of following up.

First, don’t just check in with somebody when you suspect things have gone horribly awry.  If that’s what you’re used to doing, it means your check-ins are taking place too late.  Instead, have a system and schedule in place, and stick to it.  Make your timetable clear to your delegate.  “I’ll email you next week so you can fill me in.”  “I’ll call you in a couple days so you can tell me how it’s going.”  This will establish the fact that you’re not just calling because you’re afraid they’ve messed things up.

What if you can’t get in touch with your delegates?  First of all, you should make sure ahead of time that you have the contact information for every member of your group, precisely for times like these.  A good trick is to have a computer or clipboard at your table during school involvement fairs or while tabling in the student center, so that when prospective members are showing interest, you can also collect their names and email addresses in an Excel spreadsheet.

As members get more involved, however, you should be proactive about collecting phone numbers, Facebook friend requests, Twitter handles, and whatever else will come in handy to keep in touch.  If somebody is ignoring you in one line of communication, try another.  Don’t send out mass messages full of complaints—keep the communication personal, and don’t upset the sense of valued membership you created when you delegated the SMART goal in the first place.

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