How Executive Support Professionals Set SMART Goals

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Goal-setting advice is ubiquitous these days. Every productivity expert, leadership article, and entrepreneurship podcast talks about goals (and… of course that includes our own The Founder & The Force Multiplier and The 200% Life podcasts). I get it. You’re probably all goaled-out. But hang with me here a minute. As Executive Support Professionals and Force Multipliers, our goals are often overlooked or maybe not even taken into consideration as we go about goal setting for our Executive or the organization. But that’s about to change.

It is just as important for Executive Assistants, Chiefs of Staffs, and other Force Multipliers to establish our personal and professional goals each year. Yes, they may be closely tied to our Executive’s or company’s goals, which is totally fine. However, it’s important to get clear on—and establish a way to measure—our unique goals and contributions. Why? Because it helps us create a path for our career growth, will give us specific items to include on our resume, as well as give us leverage (assuming you hit or exceed your goals) when discussing a promotion, compensation increase, or annual performance.

Getting Started With SMART Goals

SMART goals are a great way to begin the goal-setting process, whether that is for your annual goals or for a smaller quarterly project. The principles are the same.

The first place to start for Force Multipliers is ensuring that you are clear on what the company or divisional goals are for the year, as well as understanding your Executive’s goals and vision. Your goals and deliverables will be closely tied to those of your Executives, so if you are not clear on what they are, you must start there first (at least for your role-specific goals). And if your Executive isn’t clear, well, it’s a great time to test out the SMART goal framework to get everyone on the same page.

How to Set SMART Goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Let’s use Sam as an example. Sam is a Senior Executive Assistant at a small consulting firm. Sam supports the Founder & CEO, Chris. Chris wants to grow the business, acquire new consulting clients, create more visibility as a thought leader, and launch a new training program. Those are all great goals for the year, but they aren’t as SMART as they could be; which leaves Sam unclear on how she can make a specific and measurable impact. What she does know is that she can help clarify the goals and her impact by using the SMART method.

An annual SMART goal statement for the above scenario for Chris and Sam may sound like this: Our goal is to increase our annual profit by $850,000 by 12/31/2024. Saul, Sales Manager, and Dani, Digital Sales Specialist, will help us accomplish this goal by implementing an SEO strategy, increasing the engagement of our existing database with high impact consultations, and creating a free training series to drive additional opt-ins. Accomplishing this goal will result in growing our database, increasing client conversions, and ultimately growing our annual profit.

Sounds great, right? However, where does Sam come in? As a Force Multiplier, Sam’s main objective is to ensure that Chris’s vision (and goal) is clarified, communicated, implemented. She can use the SMART framework to get clear on her specific contribution.

S is for SPECIFIC

For a goal to be effective, it must be specific. The specific annual goal is pretty clear—increase profit by $850,000. Sam would help break down that goal to know who is responsible, what steps need to be taken in order to achieve the goal, and which milestones need to be hit along the way. For example, in the first few months, profit may only increase by $20,000. Which means towards the end of the year, monthly profit will need to increase by over $120,000 to hit the annual goal.

Now, the next question is, how will the team hit those monthly numbers? A new client contract is $10,000/month. Annual operating expenses are approximately $1.1M (and this includes budgeting for one new administrative hire). To profit $850,000 (in addition to the current $500,000 annual profit), the company will need to produce $2,450,000 in revenue. That’s about 21 clients that need to be acquired and retained while keeping expenses at or under budget. Five clients have already renewed annual contracts, which means the company needs to acquire 16 new clients throughout the year (again taking into consideration that if not all are acquired in January—which is unlikely—they will have to stack client acquisition throughout the year to hit their numbers). In addition, it is necessary to know the company’s conversion rate so that it’s easy to know that X number of contacts in the database, will equate to X client consultations, which equals X client contracts signed.

So, what’s Sam’s Specific Goal?: Work with the leadership team to create a forecast of when the client acquisitions will occur, while weighing that against expenses, helping to determine when the next hire should be added, and helping Chris hold the leadership team members to their monthly deliverables to stay on track for the annual profit goal.

M is for Measurable

As you can see in the above example, you have to get very granular in order to measure what matters. Once the specific goal has been established, each team member should have at least one number that they are ultimately responsible for. Saul’s (the Sales Manager) numbers might be weekly client conversations and new contracts signed. Dani’s (the Digital Sales Specialist) weekly number might be new contacts added to the database.

The weekly numbers should be tracking towards the monthly objective, as well as the overall annual goal. By tracking weekly, the team can adjust quickly before they are too far off track.

So, what’s Sam’s Measurable Goal? This is always a tough one… what number are Force Multipliers responsible for? Is all of them too much to ask? In this scenario, Sam and Chris will be keeping a close eye on the weekly scorecards and ensuring the team is moving in the right direction. In addition, as Chris’s right hand, Sam’s goal might be to create content for each monthly training session that draws in 250 people per session. Sam will work through the sales and marketing team to accomplish this goal, but ultimately she is responsible for that number and will work her magic with the message, her network, and leadership skills to get it done.

A is for Achievable

This is the perfect time for a Force Multiplier to flex their leadership skills, especially when working with a visionary founder or leader. Is the goal even reasonable or achievable in the given timeframe? Does the goal need to be adjusted? Does the time frame need to be extended? Does the budget need to increase? Do you need to hire more staff to get it done?

Chris began the year with the idea of hitting $2M in profit (increasing profit by $1,500,000) in 12 months. Sam walked Chris through a series of questions to better understand her thought process and exactly what Chris was willing and not willing to do to get there. Together they determined that it was a great 2-year goal after they built out some additional systems and sales funnels. But for the year ahead, increasing profit by $850,000 would be a big enough challenge, while also being achievable.

So, what’s Sam’s Achievable Goal? The same as the company’s. She helped Chris clarify her thinking and create a goal that the entire team could rally around. Next, it will be Sam’s job to help Chris communicate this goal and vision to the team on a weekly basis (specific & measurable).

R is for Relevant

This is where it is—again—so important to understand your leaders’ vision for their division, their company, or their career. How does this one annual goal fit into the vision for the company? Is it an irrelevant, arbitrary goal? Or will it have a direct impact on what the leader wants to create? Now is the time to ask, “Why are we setting this goal?”

Sam knows that building the database and increasing client contracts will have a direct result on the bottom line and building the brand for future opportunities (after all, the best marketing is happy clients!). The more satisfied clients and customers attending free trainings or hearing/reading Chris’s thought leadership on podcasts and blogs, the better. Chris’s vision is to create an organization that not only changes the financial future of her clients’ lives, but enables them to live a life of freedom—today.

So, what’s Sam’s Relevant Goal? Sam will work closely with Chris to ensure she is pitching Chris for media opportunities a minimum of five times per week. This top-of-the-funnel activity is where Sam can make the biggest impact and create opportunities for everyone in the company to help them hit their specific sales and client acquisition goals. All of which furthers Chris’s vision for the future of the company.

T is for Time-bound

Is a goal even a goal if it doesn’t have a deadline? I think not! In order to truly measure success, the team needs to be on the same page about when success has been achieved. CEO Chris could have said, “Let’s increase profit by $850,000.” But without saying, “…by December 31 of this year,” the goal is really up for interpretation. Saul may want to hit that goal by Q3, Sam is thinking they have until Q4, and Dani is looking at a three-year timeline. It’s not enough to know where you’re going. It’s also necessary to know how long you have to get there. Time-bound goals completely change the decision-making process. It just doesn’t work without the whole team working towards the same deadline.

While the annual goal may give the team a whole year to accomplish it, make sure you are also building in smaller time-related parameters—weekly, monthly, and quarterly—to set the team up for success and keep them on track.

So, what is Sam’s Time-bound goal? Sam will work with the leadership team each month to ensure monthly profit is on track based on the initial forecast. She will work with Chris to adjust goals and expectations as needed and then communicate that back to the team as needed. Sam will also make sure Chris has weekly 1:1 meetings with each leadership team member and that those times are protected in the calendar. If the monthly goals stay on track (adjusting as they go), there is no reason the annual profit goal can’t be achieved.

The Force Multiplier’s Goals Support the Whole Team

As you can see, an Executive Support Professional is integral in helping the entire team set SMART goals. And, it is just as important for Force Multipliers to know what their specific contribution is, how it will be measured, whether or not it is achievable and relevant, and how much time they have to achieve it. With the SMART framework in mind, Force Multipliers can tackle any goal—large or small—and know with certainty what impact they are making to their Executive and the overall company. Simply put, SMART goals are a smart move for Executive Support Professionals’ career growth!

Originally published on January 27, 2022. Updated for 2024.

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