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Set S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. goals for the new year

It’s the most wonderful time of year. No, I’m not talking about gift-giving and snow angels…

I’m talking about goal-setting time!

To me, the holiday season presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on what I accomplished during the past year and where I am in my professional and personal life.

This reflection exercise frames my favorite question:

What do I want to accomplish—and who do I want to become—over the next 12 months?

PI's VP of Partner Growth, Matt Poepsel, PhD, on setting S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. goals for 2021

What does it mean to set “S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T.” goals?

We all know that proper goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

But, if we truly want to perform at our best, we need to take things just a bit further. (Our amps do go to 11 after all.)

Make sure that your S.M.A.R.T. goals are also:

  • Energizing — They should naturally excite and motivate you.
  • Sharable — You should be willing to enlist an accountability partner to help you follow through on them.
  • Trackable — You should be able to document and review your progress toward them over time.

Looking for some inspiration? I asked a few PI leaders to share their S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. goals for the New Year:

PI's VP of Product Marketing, Victoria Nichol, on setting S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. goals for 2021

Victoria Nichol, VP of Product Marketing: “In the new year, my focus is to lean into conflict. Specifically, when conflict arises between teams, direct reports, or colleagues, to have a conversation or provide constructive feedback to address the issue that same day (within 24 hours). 

This will empower me to be a better leader and role model for my team and allow those around me to hold me accountable in my professional and personal growth.”

Jackie Dube, SVP of Talent Optimization: “One of our main goals in the new year is to drive performance through talent optimization. As we continue to be thoughtful and intentional in our hiring, it’s critical that we have the right people in the right roles doing the right things.

Measures of success include employee engagement, internal promotions, and expanded career pathing.”

Ted Olson, Head of Partner Activation: “One of my goals this year is to take what I’m learning from my reading and research and create actionable frameworks that help people, leaders, and businesses. 

For example, there is a ton of information on emotional intelligence—so much so that it can be overwhelming. But when you break it down into a simple framework and acronym, such as A.C.E., it becomes memorable and actionable. 

By learning to become AWARE of your emotions, CONTROL (not suppress) them, and EXPRESS them in a healthy way, it becomes easier to execute on these ideas.”

Drew Fortin, SVP of Sales and Marketing: “It’s always a goal of mine to take at least two full weeks of vacation. If I don’t make it a goal then it’s unlikely I get a full week in. Specific to this year, it’s a personal goal of mine to take control of my calendar. I want to be driving it, instead of it driving me.

Business-related, I am a serial networker. It’s my goal to focus my efforts on talent optimization evangelists: those who are innovating at the tip of the spear and bringing new frameworks and solutions to the talent optimization market. I also plan to turn this into a content series of some kind.”

Share your own goals for the New Year.

I love goal setting, and I’d welcome the chance to help you, too. I create original educational content on LinkedIn five days a week. Connect with me and ask any goal-related questions you may have!

Take this opportunity to set your S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. goals for the new year, and prepare to have your best year yet.


Matt Poepsel, PhD is the author of Expand the Circle: Enlightened Leadership for Our New World of Work and host of the Lead the People podcast. He serves as Vice President & Godfather of Talent Optimization at The Predictive Index. He holds a PhD in Psychology, an MBA, and a Harvard Business School Certificate of Management Excellence. Matt has more than 25 years of leadership experience as a software executive and consultant. He’s also a US Marine, an Ironman triathlon finisher, and a student of Buddhist philosophy.

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