Goal Setting 101: SMART Goals vs. CLEAR Goals

Goal Setting 101: SMART Goals vs. CLEAR Goals

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We’ve all heard of SMART goals but more and more people are wondering which to use in the choice between SMART goals and CLEAR goals.

Both acronyms helps you create goals for your team that are more measurable and focused, and thus, easier to conceptualize and to achieve. At the same time, there are several key differences that separate them. 

SMART stands for: 

  • Specific – this step means that every goal should be as concrete as possible. What is its purpose? Who is involved? What are the steps? What do you need to complete it? 
  • Measurable – each goal should have a quantifiable outcome. This step helps you ensure you’re using assessable factors to judge if it has been completed. Ask questions like “how much?” and “how many?” 
  • Achievable – You should be able to complete your goal. That means you should be able to do it with the resources, time, and team members you have available. 
  • Relevant – Why are you setting this goal? Does it align with your team’s purpose? Does each individual have a stake in the goal? Does it fit with your team’s culture?
  • Time-bound – Like “measurable,” your goal should have a timeframe, as well. That means you should determine how long it will take to complete. 

SMART has become a successful goal-setting acronym because it encourages teams to be reasonable and set external constraints like quantifiable achievement and timeframes. 

Still, there are some in the business world who think SMART has reached the limits of its usefulness. They suggest that SMART goals are too fixed, as today’s businesses need to be ever-changing and adaptable. 

The more-agile variant of SMART goals are CLEAR goals. This acronym stands for the following: 

  • Collaborative – Your goal should engage your team with each other and determine how connections will be forged with others. 
  • Limited – These are short-term goals, often on the road to longer-term achievements. That means that each goal should be limited in its timeline and complexity. 
  • Emotional – Your goal should feel emotionally important to you and to your team members. 
  • Appreciable – These goals should be able to be built upon or put into a part of a series. CLEAR goals are smaller goals that develop into larger outcomes. 
  • Refinable – CLEAR goals are all about flexibility. They should have room – and your team should have the mental headspace – to alter any aspect of the goal as conditions change. 

Adam Kreek, the originator of CLEAR goals, decided that SMART goals didn’t allow for adaptation, as they didn’t have a component like “Refinable” that asked goal-setters to refine their objectives if they weren’t working out. 

How executive teams can start putting CLEAR goals into practice.

  1. Teams should be formed that include an executive, coach, and members. 
  2. Teams should meet to develop a shared CLEAR goal. 
  3. Together, the team should create the group’s CLEAR goal. 
  4. Then, individuals should decide on their smaller, personal CLEAR goals in service to the team’s goal and their personal missions. 
  5. The executive writes a four- to 10-page document outlining each of the CLEAR steps. 
  6. The coach reads the document, offers feedback, and returns it to the executive. 
  7. The executive revises the document, and the coach offers more feedback. 
  8. The coach cuts the document so the CLEAR goal is outlined in one page. 
  9. The executive approves the CLEAR goal and posts it on a wall.
  10. The goal is reviewed one to four times per year and modified as necessary. 

Which Is Better: SMART Goals or CLEAR Goals?

The biggest benefit of CLEAR goals is that they require those who make them to modify them as necessary. SMART goals, on the other hand, are perhaps more quantifiable; they ask you to identify external factors that will let you know when the goal has been completed. 

Other than these features, SMART and CLEAR goals are similar in a lot of ways. Specifically, both goal-setting methods invite you to do the following: 

  • Create goals that aren’t overly-ambitious. Both methods invite you to break down your larger ambitions into goals that are easier to achieve. 
  • Make goals with metrics. Goal-setters can feel a sense of ambiguity if they’re not sure what successful achievement of a goal looks like. This method avoids that mystery. 
  • Ensures individuals and teams have the resources they need to achieve the goal. Both methods encourage teams to allocate sufficient personnel and resources to accomplish the goal. 
  • Develop a plan. Both methods suggest setting a timeline and breaking larger achievements into step-by-step projects. 

Ultimately, both SMART goals and CLEAR goals can be useful, and either one is more effective than less-specific goals. 

As Reviewsnap notes, “Goals that are ‘smart’ and ‘clear’ result in success far more often than ones that are assigned to an employee without much consideration.”

Regardless of the acronym you prefer, make sure to add in regular check-ins with your team to modify whatever type of goal you set. Many goals in today’s fast-paced world may need adaptations before they’re completed. What’s more, no matter what types of goals you’re setting, make sure they fit in with your sense of purpose and are feasible without being overwhelming

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