Leverage S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Accountability

Early on in my career, I struggled with both personal and customer reviews (quarterly and annually) – one of my biggest complaints was that I wasn’t provided enough guidance around what was expected of me. Goals would often end up incomplete and customer frustration would escalate. This would obviously then impact other teams like Customer Support and our Sales team who would be charged with the difficult task of clarifying customer objectives, re-setting expectations, and goal setting.

Needless to say, this was one of the most difficult and important lessons I learned by fire. Fast forward 10 years later and goal setting is still one of the most difficult tasks we have as CSMs and that I find to be difficult but for a different reason – accountability.

When setting goals now I find it easy (now) to create goals because I’m using S.M.A.R.T. goals.

To break down that acronym:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

So let’s take an example of a personal goal most people set at the start of a new year: Lose weight. This is something I found myself doing early on (as previously mentioned) and it is not until now that I realized why I wasn’t succeeding in my plan. It’s not SMART.  However, let’s take a look at what that would be as a SMART goal: Work out 3 times per week for 2 months.

By breaking the same goal into something more specific I am setting myself up for a higher percentage of successfully accomplishing this goal.

So why do I find goal setting to still be difficult? Accountability is, in my opinion, what really drives SMART goal setting. It’s not just identifying a problem or an end goal but it’s the milestones we set for ourselves in between to help get to that end goal. So going back to the work out example, stating that I want to lose weight doesn’t create accountability for myself. Whereas saying I will work out 3 times per week for 2 months well I’ve narrowed down on an achievable goal that I know I can achieve BUT now I really have to hold myself accountable.

Translating all of this into the workplace – I often see now how easily goals can lose focus and direction which is on the accountability side. My advice is not only to set SMART goals but to take a moment before setting goals and reflect on whether or not you’re ready to hold yourself accountable for the goals you’re setting. If you can’t hold yourself accountable maybe take a smaller bite and reconsider goals so that you can actually be successful. It’ll make for a better review when you have measurable data to show.


Gary Marroquin is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. He is currently a Technical Customer Success Manager with Label Insight.

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