We discuss the basics of personal and professional goal setting (including SMART, HARD, and DUMB goals), as well as the role personal and organizational values play in creating effective goals.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 4, Episode 21: Soft Skills: Goal Setting - Part 1
Recorded: September 26, 2023
Released: October 17, 2023
Hosts: Brian Jonson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Director; Kim Swanson, Communications Manager, AASHTO re:source
Note: Please reference AASHTO re:source and AASHTO Accreditation Program policies and procedures online for official guidance on this, and other topics.
Transcription is auto-generated.
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00:00:02 ANNOUNCER: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q & A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials testing and inspection with people in the know. From exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management, we're covering topics important to you. Now here’s our host, Brian Johnson.
00:00:22 BRIAN: Welcome to AASHTO Resource Q&A. I am Brian Johnson.
00:00:26 KIM: And I'm Kim Swanson. And we have another soft skills episode for you this week.
00:00:31 BRIAN: That's right. And this one is going to be fun for me because I get to ask him questions. Well, I'm going to ask her some questions.
00:00:40 KIM: I'm going to be asking you some questions too, but OK.
00:00:43 BRIAN: Right. Well, this episode is about goal setting now, just for some background, before we actually started putting these episodes out, we recorded a series of pilot episodes. Probably five or six of them, just to give our boss an idea of what we had in mind for this podcast, and one of the episodes was about SMART goals. It got recorded, but it never got released and we're not going to release what we recorded then even though I'm sure it would have been fine. We've gotten better, more like nominally better at the podcast business since then, so I'm sure that this episode will be better than what that pilot episode would have been.
00:01:28 KIM: And not based on content, just based on production value alone, I feel like.
00:01:33 BRIAN: Yeah, that's true. That's true. Just yeah. Just the fact that we went from stereo to mono. I think because we were, I wasn't thinking of people listening on headphones. And then once I heard it, I realized how difficult that would be to want to listen to a second episode.
00:01:52 KIM: Yes, so it is. It's a good thing that that one wasn't released for public consumption. But yes, we're talking about goal setting today. So, the background for me why Brian said he was going to ask me some questions is because outside of my work with AASHTO, I am very familiar with personal goals and setting personal goals. And the goal-setting journey for individuals. So I'm going to come at it with that end because I am a Personal Development Coach outside of AASHTO and I'm then I'm going to ask Brian some questions from the business, sort of you from the creating business schools and SMART goals for bringing performance reviews and from that angle.
00:02:38 BRIAN: Let's get started. What kind of I mentioned SMART goals going in. Let's talk about what those are. So can you just give us a quick summary of what a SMART goal is?
00:02:47 KIM: If you aren't familiar with it stands for SMART, so that's Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. Now, depending on what you Google, you may get slightly variations on what that acronym stands for, but it in general, works out to be kind of the same meaning.
00:03:09 BRIAN: Let's break it down. Can you give me an example of a goal that is not specific versus one that is specific?
00:03:18 KIM: Yes, now depending on what you are working towards and what your goal is, that will vary. The example I say may not resonate with you, but so if you say like if you want to buy a house in five years. So you may think that that is a SMART goal, because that's like specific. I want to buy a house and that's measurable because then you buy a house, you either do or you don't. [BRIAN: One unit.] Yeah, you buy a house. Is it achievable? That's going to look differently for everybody? Is it realistic? Also, will look different for everybody. But then there is time bound if you say in one year or in the next 5 years, I want to buy a house. So, at the start of it you can say yes, that is a SMART goal. But is it a useful SMART goal? Where is it specific enough for you? So I want to buy a house in a particular location or buy a house that has X, Y, and Z so you can get more specific. As in I just want to buy a house in the next five years versus, I want to buy a house in the country, with 10 acres, and a bunch of outbuildings, and that has a stream running through it. Now that would be a really specific goal. Is it realistic or achievable? Also, I don't know, but you can get it more specific than just. I want to buy a house. Does that answer your question or?
00:04:42 BRIAN: Yeah, that absolutely answers my question. That's a great example. When I think about SMART goals, you know, comparing a general goal that may not be effective, and I guess that's really what we're going for, right, we're going for a goal that actually motivates you to complete it. As stated, so like I know a lot of people will think about weight loss, which seems to be a very common goal that people have or some sort of fitness goal. OK, so I'll give you an example. I would like to lose, let's say 10 pounds. OK, so there's measurable, but I don't have, I mean, I guess t's not that specific, although pounds are pretty specific, but it it's that's the unit of measure. I don't have any time-bound aspect to it. It may not be realistic. Mm-hmm, either. So I don't know where I'm at with that. I guess I need to do some more soul-searching so, but if. But can you turn that into a SMART goal for me?
00:05:46 KIM: Well, I'll actually not, because although I think for business purposes and for performance reviews and at work SMART goals that structure and that acronym really is great. But for personal goals? I really do think it falls short and for my experience because kind of what you were just said, you're like, well, I guess that's measurable, but that's not giving me the motivation to get through it. So, I like to think of for personal goals like to really come at it with the why is it important to me? So if you came to me and it's like, hey, I want this goal I think I want. I want to lose 10 pounds but it's not. How do I make it better? How to make this goal a better, more effective goal? For me, I would dig in with you about why. Why do you want to lose 10 pounds? What is important to you about it? Not what's important to your doctor or your significant other or your family? But what is it important? Why is that important to you? And that is what's going to help you get through the motivation.
00:06:51 KIM: Right. So the why is more important because the how can change. So if you're start off with the goal of I want to lose 10 pounds but then after digging into the why of it and it's really that you want to have more energy and be more present then maybe it's not about losing 10 pounds, it's about how you can structure your day better and how you allocate your time better or what can you do to support your why. Of having more energy. You could even go through and kind of do a root cause analysis. Of the why keep asking why until you get to the actual root of what's important to you about it? About the importance? Because again, the steps that you take and the goal that you think you start off with can change. So the how can change, but the why is going to be your kind of guiding post.
00:07:44 BRIAN: OK. What you're telling me is I should go get a tub of ice cream and polish that off, instead of finishing the rest of this interview.
00:07:53 KIM: [Laughing] Not at all what I said at all, that is items.
00:07:54 BRIAN: No, that's what I heard. That's what you is that it's pointless to make a SMART goal for that. No. I should do something else. What else can I do?
00:08:02 KIM: I would invite you to look at I personally really like HARD goals or DUMB goals. And so those are the acronyms as they sound, but HARD stands for Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult. And I like that structure because you have the heartfelt part of it, of like the why and the animated is like what you get really excited about. You need some excitement and energy around it. The required part of that really gets into what are the steps that you have to do? What do you need to accomplish this? In the next six weeks, what do you need to do it in the next 30 days? What can you do today to help you accomplish this? And then the difficult is what skills do you need to help you achieve that? So I use a mix and I encourage people to use a mix of SMART goals, HARD goals and DUMB goals and kind of make an alphabet soup that works for you in that way. Now.
00:09:05 KIM: DUMB goals, yeah.
00:09:07 BRIAN: Before we get to DUMB goals, so let's talk about the D in HARD. What?
00:09:08 KIM: Oh yeah, yeah.
00:09:10 BRIAN: Was that again?
00:09:11 KIM: Difficult and that is what are the three to five most important skills that you need to achieve that goal and how will you dDevelop those skills.
00:09:22 BRIAN: OK. Is that an acronym HARD or is it? Yeah, I would call that a forced acronym.
00:09:24 KIM: Alright, yeah.
00:09:31 BRIAN: OK, that that was like I feel like whoever came up with that one really was trying to make it say HARD. Anyway, let's get to DUMB goals.
00:09:41 KIM: I like DUMB goals the best, personally. I use this mostly for me and DUMB gold. The D stands for Dream-driven. So you're thinking about the life that you want to lead the person you want to be and you think big with that the you is uplifting. So something it's kind of like the animated part of the HARD goal, something that gives that kind of energy around it and that is connected to your dream. And then the M is Method-friendly. So you want to make sure that you're it's like the achievable part of the SMART goals as well, right you so you want to make sure that you actually can do it, but the B is my favorite. Favorite, favorite part and is Behavior-driven because you cannot have a goal, you won't accomplish a goal if you is not tied to a behavior that you have control over. So that is what it is. You need to tie in your goals to a behavior and then commit to either changing that behavior or continuing that behavior and so that is what I think is really powerful about.
00:10:49 KIM: The DUMB goal. And you can search all these on the Internet. These are not my own acronyms. Someone smarter than me probably wrote a book about them to give you the great answers of that. But that's what they are in, as a general overview.
00:11:02 BRIAN: That is interesting and I have to say as much as I don't love the forced acronyms that I would say both of them are. However, the concepts are good and you're right, I mean. Especially when you think about a goal, a personal goal like weight loss. Having a goal to lose 10 pounds may get you there for a short time. But if you don't change your behaviors, they will not get you there in the long term, and you won't have that long term impact. You're actually looking for. And I'd say that the times in my life where I have felt good about the physical condition I was in, I wasn't thinking about losing weight at all. I was thinking about other things. I was thinking about. Either I want to or I'll give you one that is, that is a SMART goal is I wanted to be able to run 3 miles by a certain time without having a heart attack essentially like safely.
00:11:57 KIM: Safely doing that, yes.
00:12:00 BRIAN: Yeah. So I had to ramp up to that. But in the process, I found that I was achieving other goals that I had not been specifically after, but they kind of happened. And then that was pre-pandemic. So I would say without the pandemic, I I probably would have progressed continued to progress along that path, but then a bunch of other things happened that kind of got in the way. But I would like to get back to that at some point soon.
00:12:24 KIM: Yeah, I think that brings up a really good point and I think a point that's often missed when you talk about personal goal setting is to think about how you've succeeded in the past, right. So you hear a lot of people say like learn from your mistakes, which is great. Yes, do that, but also learn from your successes. So when have you succeeded before? So that example that you just gave when you're setting another goal, or if you want to have another health goal, knowing that you really felt your best when you weren't focused on the weight, you can use that to develop your next goal that you want to do. So again, learn from your failures, but also learn from your successes and pick and choose what's going to work for you this time and know that it might not just because it worked last time, it might not work this time and you might have to adapt. So I think that's a really big part of it. Another big part is when you brought up the pandemic. You want to when you're setting goals. Kind of think of potential roadblocks that you may come up across and what will prevent you from reaching those goals now that pandemic? I'm sure nobody could have seen.
00:13:26 KIM: Like, yes, I'm going to. My goal is going to be derailed because of this global pandemic, I don't think anyone had that. But by brainstorming other ideas of what could potentially get in your way. Your brain is already in the mindset of flexibility and adapting it to whatever comes your way. So a whether the thing that you foresaw or that you predicted, what might happen, whether that's the roadblock you come across or it's something else you're already thinking in the adaptive kind of mindset to help move around that now, that being said, I'm not saying focus on everything that could go wrong and spend a lot of time in that. In that world. Do not do that, but do spend some time, you know, limited if you tend to be like a Negative Nelly or something like that. You know that about yourself? Maybe limited to, like, OK, I'm going to spend 10 minutes to think about potential roadblocks and then move on and not just live in that negative space. But it is a good exercise to do so. You can just be prepared because something is going to come up that would potentially derail you. So it's just if you're prepared for it then you know how to minimize it or go around it.
00:14:36 BRIAN: Yeah, that's great advice because I find that there are always things that get in the way of. Address and some of them we end up creating on our own inadvertently and some of them are external forces that cannot be foreseen. But let's talk about some of the goals. You know you you talked about DUMB goals and HARD goals. What are some other examples or maybe one other example of an area where of somebody's life, where one of those can be used.
00:15:07 KIM: I think it's really specific to individuals, so I can't say that this is going to work for you. For me, I will for my work goals. I like SMART goals, so for my performance review and things like that, I'm trying to have a SMART goal as possible both being affected and following the acronym. But for my personal goals, I take a hodgepodge. I think I start most of them with a SMART goal, but then add the Difficult or the Behavior-driven or whatever it is. Depending on where I am in that moment where I'm creating the goal, depending on the goal and the outcome that I want to achieve right? So like I don't use the same method every time I set a goal because it's not. Going to work for every goal. So it's hard to tell you like what is. A good people because. I use so many different ones and it's really just picking and choosing.
00:16:01 KIM: What's you think is going to be effective? And then if you try and it's, you're like, oh, that's not effective, then go back to the drawing board and then figure out what it is. But I will say most of the time, if you're not achieving the goal or you haven't achieved a goal or maintained a goal, the connection to your why the why is it important? Might not be as strong as you think it is, so I always invite people to go back and revisit the why. If you're not doing something or if you're not following through and health goals and weight loss goals are very common that way. I know I personally have had those. Like I'm going to do this. This and I want. To lose this and by this and do this and then I don't inevitably. Or I do for a little bit and then I don't. And you're like, darn it. I thought I had my why that time. And then, like, great, that's not the why. And then it's is basically a root cause. Like what happened with that? And I go back. OK, well, now this is my why? Nope, I got it. And I'm like, energized. I'm like, I've. I figured it out. This is my why and then I fail again at that and was like OK, that wasn't the why. What did I learn? What can I do better? How do I improve? So it's not necessarily.
00:17:08 KIM: Getting derailed once you don't need a goal as well.
00:17:12 BRIAN: One thing I find interesting is that the people I know who are really good at achieving kind of amazing short term goals are tend to be obsessive, addictive personality type people. So they. But it's incredible to me and I'm always in awe of people who can do those kind of things. Like you could take somebody who has absolutely no interest in physical fitness and they could say I'm going to run a marathon and sure enough, in two months they do it. And they actually really do it and then and then it's over. And then they never want to run again. But I'm still blown away that they could do it because I could not do that. I don't have that. I'm not. I'm not an addictive that person. I'm not able to say, OK, I've got this goal, I'm going to give up everything else and just go for it. I don't know what it is. Without me, it just don't have that drive.
00:18:04 KIM: Yeah, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I don't.
00:18:06 BRIAN: No, no, not it's not a bad thing. It's just a different thing, right?
00:18:09 KIM: It's totally different thing and I think you're looking at other people saying, oh, I wish that is really cool. I wish I could do that. Those same people are looking at you saying, oh, that's really cool. I wish I could do that. Right. So I think it's one of those things that not necessarily the grass is always greener. But you know what I mean of like you like, you always envy what you see in other people like. I could never do that where you are doing amazing things that other people can't do. You just don't see it because you just innately think like that, or you innately do it.
00:18:40 BRIAN: So well, that that sounds good. And how much is this therapy session costing me? I should have asked you that beforehand.
00:18:47 KIM: Did it kind of start like that? And sounding like that, well, you know.
00:18:48 BRIAN: It did. It did. That's not bad. That's not bad.
00:18:52 KIM: No, not bad at all. I want to talk a little bit about work-related goals as you are a manager of people and I am not and you help direct as the AASHTO Accreditation Program Director. The direction of that program. So you're familiar with setting goals for your department and your program. As well As for people. So. What strategies have you found effective when you're setting goals? Let's start with your staff and employees.
00:19:23 BRIAN: OK, well I do think that SMART goals are. For work, and I think it's that engagement or making it something that your staff is interested in sort of like what you were talking about with the Heart and the DUMB goals. You've got to have that in it, even though that's not one of the I guess I guess relevant would be the would be the R in that it has to be something people are interested in doing. So, one thing we've done and we'd like to do this every year. We haven't always done it every year, but towards the end of the year we get together with our group and we think about what do we, what do we need to do to improve the program in the next year. So, we introduce the time based element to it. And we brainstorm for a while and we come up with some potential goals and. And we write them down and they have to be measurable so that we can look to see if we've succeeded. They have to be time based. So we might say, OK, let's just use a random thing, file completion rate up to.
00:20:21 BRIAN: 95% by March 30th or something like that. Just pick a date. So, you've got it a range of time. You've got a statistic you can track. It's something that people are interested in and it seems to be a motivator for the team. So, we've been doing that Stop and on not as consistently as we like to, but when we do it, people are really interested in it. And then the other thing you have to do is you kind of have to give updates once you start doing it to say check in and say OK, how do we do it? This did we accomplish that? Was that the right thing? Because you're not done. Once you do one of these exercises, that's not it. You're going to set it up for future ones. So. So you want to think about how realistic those objectives were and kind of looking at how you performed gives you an idea of whether they were realistic or were they did you fall short or were you being unrealistic about?
00:21:17 BRIAN: The expectations. So it's really something that evolves over time to when you set these things, but the longer you're manager and the longer you're working with the same people, the faster you can narrow that down. But of course that's a challenge as well. Trying to get people, you know, the employee retention and just being able to have committed individuals that are willing to work on that, but I feel like engaging with them get you there a lot faster than if you just pick some random goal that sounds good to you as a manager and you feel like you're accomplishing something if your staff doesn't feel that that you're they're accomplishing anything, you're going to have a really hard time selling.
00:21:56 KIM: It for me this past year. In in my performance review, we're going over the goals I for my myself had to tie each of those goals that I had to our organizational mission or vision or our core values, because in my goal setting brain. When I think of outside of work, the importance of tying your goals to your values as an individual is really important, and so I needed this year to try to bring that part of it into my goals in the work world. So I went through and after I discussed it with my manager and was just. Like this is how I see these all aligning. What role does that play for you? Does the organizational values and organizational mission or your mission for your team play into the goal setting when you're coming up with goals?
00:22:54 BRIAN:. They have to be at the root of all of it, really. And it's not like those things. And exist independently of each other anyway, but I mean from the time you hire somebody, like when you hire somebody, you're looking for certain values that they possess that mesh with your organizations values. You kind of train them on the mission and the vision of the organization, and then you set up those goals around those things. I think it all meshes together really nicely, but I think it would be really hard if you don't start with people who share those values, because then you don't get that buy in like integrity. That's one of our values, right? It is right. OK, you you're looking like. I don't think he knows what the values are. So if you pick integrity as one of your values and you Say we show integrity by making sure that we correct our mistakes. You know we have one that's like we correct errors on our directory and we have a goal. We don't want any more than 1% of the files completed to have errors in them after peer review and so like.
00:24:06 BRIAN: That kind of triggers this integrity check that makes us collect this data so that if we find errors, we report them. We document them, we correct them, and then we report back to see how we're doing and if we're not doing well on that metric, then we take corrective action. To improve that, so we may have to change some of our practices policies or maybe just reinforce the need to double check things with our staff to get to that so that we can achieve that goal. Does that answer that question?
00:24:39 KIM: Yeah. Yes, I think it does. And I will say for me personally what I had heard you say was something to that you want to make sure that your employees share your values as the organizational values. And I say yes, but. I don't know if there needs to be 100% overlap, but I think that every employee should understand the value of your organizational values or the importance of the values and not saying look, I know my personal values is not 100% match of what the AASHTO resource. The values are. But there's enough overlap that it's not a conflict for me that it's like this is out of alignment and I can't be here. So yeah, but I think you have to not necessarily have a direct overlap, but you definitely have to see those connections and be able to make those connections between your personal values and the organizational values when you're creating goals.
00:25:34 BRIAN: Yeah, you do. And I would say one other kind of spin off of that is your staff doesn't have to care about whether you have stated values to have values. That's another thing I think gets lost cause when we when we establish. Our mission, vision and values. There was some discussion and I was on. I'm one of these people who is like, you know, I don't necessarily have to write down to have that characteristic or have that value I. But after we've implemented it for a while, I see the value in stating values because it kind of helps people see, hey, is this a good match for me? And especially when you're hiring people on, they might not know that about you and I. And I also think there's some accountability that comes with making that statement that I that was kind of lost on me when we're having those initial discussions is like, well, of course, we care about integrity, you know. But if we don't say it, then people don't realize it and then they're like.
00:26:30 BRIAN: So it's just another job and it's like, well, it's not just another job because we really care about what we do and. We and we prove it. And we prove it every day. So, uh, if you have come here to just punch the clock and watch the clock, then that is not this is not the place for you because we want to see that matching value and we want to see how you can help improve things. Continue improvement. Oddly not one of our. Posted core values, but it's the thing we talk about all. The time too.
00:27:01 KIM: It is now. I've been keeping an eye on the clock, and I know I have more to talk about this. I think you do too. So let's break this up into two episodes. So I think this is a natural stopping point for part one, so join us next week for Part 2 as we continue the discussion on differences between personal and professional goal setting, we're going to talk about some brainstorming questions and look at it through the lens of both personal goal setting and for professional and organizational goals. So hope to see then.
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