SMART Goals: 5 Tips for Motivating Employees

SMART goals are absolutely essential to motivating employees for people in management roles. Using them will help you create an environment where they can win, and feel like winners.

The 10/90 rule in smart goal setting says that the first 10% of the time that you spend developing absolute clarity about what is to be done will save you 90% of the time once you begin. It can also save you 90% of the mistakes, the costs, and the time of other people involved.

You’ve heard it said that, “You can’t hit a target that you can’t see.” And the follow-up that is, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

So without further ado, here are my 5 tips for using SMART goals in management.

Pay close attention to the specific goal-setting techniques designed to encourage and motivate your entire team to hit their targets.

1. Use SMART Goals and Objectives

What is a SMART Goal?

You have most likely heard of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym in setting business or personal goals. It stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Relevant

T = Time-bound

SMART Goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound

It is perfectly clear to everyone who must be involved in its achievement. A child can tell you how close you are to accomplishing it. It is clear and unambiguous. Most of the problems with goal achieving stem back to a lack of clarity in setting the goal in the first place.


It can be defined in numerical or financial terms. It can be broken down into steps, each of which can be measured as well. The more clear the measures, the easier it is to focus and concentrate on achieving those numbers.


It can be accomplished within the constraints of time, money, the external environment, the economy, the skills and abilities of the team members and the other constraints contained both inside and outside the company.


It is within the bounds of reality and is something that people can develop a high level of confidence in achieving. In goal setting, many goals are “merely aspirational.” They do not reflect reality. They are more wishes and hopes than goals.


When you have specific schedules for the attainment of each part of the goal, and the completion of each part of the task, it is much easier for people to achieve the goal on schedule.

2. Break it Down by Tasks and Accomplishments

Defining winning can be a major factor in motivating employees. For a person to win, he has to know where the finish line is. He has to know how you define winning. He has to know exactly what he has to do to complete the task and cross the finish line. This is the first step in creating a smart business.

The smaller and tighter the increments, the easier it is for the other person to feel like a winner. Each time that the staff member achieves a mini-goal, he or she feels like a “mini-winner.” It is the manager’s responsibility to help the employee see that they are using proper goal setting techniques and setting reasonable milestones for them to achieve. Be sure that these small increments add up to big wins that are in line with specific business goals.

When you assign people a large, multitask project, that may take many months to complete, be sure to set up a series of milestones and benchmarks so that people can have short-term targets to aim at, and can continually generate the feeling of winning.

3. Motivate Employees with Successful Experiences

For a person to feel like a winner, he must succeed at the task. He must achieve the goal. He must accomplish the responsibility and get the result that he was tasked for. Not only is it the job of the manager to motivate employees, but they must also help each person experience success.

If a person has been given a job that is too much for him, the job of the manager is to adjust the job, assign parts of it to someone else, and make it more manageable for the employee. The focus is always on making sure that, whatever job the person has, they are capable of doing it successfully sooner or later.

The best way for motivating employees who are new is to give them a series of small jobs that are clearly within their ability.

4. Practice Individual Recognition and Make Goals Attainable

They say, “Children cry for it; grown men die for it.”

Everybody needs to be recognized for their individual accomplishments by the people around them, and especially above them. Since your team members are intrinsically motivated, it is the anticipation of the recognition they will receive for the completion of a task that motivates them internally to “go the extra mile.”

A good tactic for motivating employees is to give positive recognition for an accomplishment, which raises a person’s self-esteem, improves their self-image, and motivates them to do even more and better in the future.

5. Provide Rewards

This is the icing on the cake. You can only get by with praise and recognition for task completion for a limited amount of time. At some point, you must give some kind of reward to acknowledge superior results. Along with motivating employees, if there are no rewards following extra efforts, people lose their enthusiasm and conclude internally, “what’s the use?”

Rewards, however, can be tangible or intangible. A tangible reward is material or financial in some way. It may be a briefcase or a gift certificate. It may be a bonus or a pay increase. These rewards are great for motivating employees and act as a continuous spur to better performance.

Rewards can be intangible as well. An intangible reward can be something as simple as taking the person out to lunch to celebrate their success. It can be a bigger office or desk. It can be a new office chair or a new computer. I learned that the best financial reward for motivating employees is a specific bonus tied to completion of a specific task. It is a one-time affair. It is not a permanent pay increase that goes on month after month.

Short term rewards and bonuses are just as motivating as long-term pay increases. Another intangible reward is time off. When one of my staff members does a great job on a project, I tell them in advance that they need not come in on a Friday. I always give them time to plan their day off in advance, rather than telling them at the last minute.


Dramatically increase your likelihood of achieving your goals with my 14-Step Goal Setting Guide.


Brian Tracy's 14-step goal-setting guide

How to Use SMART Goals to Create Wealth

Accomplish Business Success with Efficient Habits

To accomplish business success, develop the habit of negotiating more effectively to get higher prices when you sell and lower prices when you buy. A good negotiator can save or gain 10%, 20% and more on every financial transaction.

Remember that each dollar saved or gained is additional money that you can put away to accumulate and grow in your financial fortress account. Develop the habit of asking for higher prices when you are selling and asking for lower prices when you buy.

Set measurable goals and develop frugal living skills. Ask for lower interest rates. Ask for better terms and conditions. Ask for immediate payment when you sell and ask for deferred payment when you buy. Ask repeatedly. Ask pleasantly. Ask courteously. Ask expectantly. Ask confidently.

But don’t be afraid to ask. Ask for what you want, and if you don’t get it, ask for something else. When people make a lot of money quickly, as the result of success in the stock market, breakthrough, a business success or an invention, the story gets into the newspapers and magazines. But this is precisely because great financial success in a short time is so unusual.

Frugal Living Creates Fortune

Most great fortunes and business success stories are built slowly. They are based on the principle of compound interest, what Albert Einstein called, “The greatest power in the universe.” In fully 99% of cases where people become wealthy, it through setting smart goals, frugal living, and it is based on slow, incremental growth as the result of compound interest. Through

Through frugal living, every dollar that you save, properly invested and protected, has the ability to grow 5% – 10% each year. As your money grows, it compounds on itself and grows even more.

It takes the average millionaire 22 years to accumulate a million dollars from the time he gets serious about setting SMART goals for his or her financial life. They create business success and get rich slowly, by setting SMART goals and gradually increasing their earning ability. They developing a frugal living lifestyle and save more from their income, and investing it carefully and intelligently so that it grows and compounds over the years. You must do the same.

Set SMART Goals for Business Success

  1. Make a decision today that you are going to accumulate more than a million dollars in the years ahead. Write it down as one of your SMART goals, make a plan, and then do something toward achieving it every single day.
  2. Conduct a complete financial analysis on your life; determine your net worth, your income and expenses, and your future possibilities by setting SMART goals.
  3. Open a special financial fortress account and begin putting money into it at every opportunity; never spend this money on anything except investing and growth.
  4. Get your financial life organized, with proper estate planning and insurance, with a family limited partnership to protect your assets.
  5. Begin practicing frugal living by saving a fixed percentage of your income each month; practice the wedge theory and save 50% of every increase from this day forward.
  6. To create business success and investigate before you invest; learn every detail of the business, and be sure you thoroughly understand how your money is to be used and how it will be returned.
  7. Practice frugal living habits in all expenditures; never buy new if you can buy used, never pay full price if you can negotiate something better, delay all major expenditures until you have had ample time to think about them. 
“Go out and buy yourself a five-cent pencil and a ten-cent notebook and begin to write down some million dollar ideas for yourself.” (Bob Grinde)

The Pursuit of Happiness

The philosopher Aristotle concluded, in his Nicomachean Ethics, “The ultimate end or purpose of all human life is the achievement of personal happiness.”

Becoming financially independent as the result of developing Million Dollar Habits is a great SMART goal in itself, but it is not the most important thing for business success. It is the person that you have to become, in terms of courage, character, thoughtfulness, and persistence that is most important. As the result of becoming financially successful and acquire business success over a long period of time, you will feel truly happy and satisfied with yourself, and with every other part of your life.

This is the most worthwhile SMART goal of all.


Dramatically increase your likelihood of achieving your goals with my 14-Step Goal Setting Guide.


Brian Tracy's 14-step goal-setting guide offer

About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.

  • Lewis Young

    Whilst I agree with most sentiments in this blog, I have to say be careful with point no.5. Like Brian rightly says, positive feedback has effect for a limited time and so by giving rewards, you would eventually fall down the same pitfalls. Currently reading through Daniel Pink’s ‘DRIVE: the unsurprising truth about what motivates us’ and from the offset, he explains the carrot and stick reward system becomes ineffective longer term in motivating your team. In fact, this model becomes counter-intuitive to our aims by actually making us less productive as we look to see rewards for our efforts.

    I have also read ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek who explains that you will only get so far with people who ‘don’t believe what you believe’ through motivation tactics. I agree with both points of view here.

    If you’re going to use the carrot and stick model then be creative, fun and unpredictable with it. What we are striving for is of course a motivated and happy workplace, achieving our goals and completing projects. But what no-one wants is reward to become a stalemate, something that makes us less productive and unmotivated.

    Appreciate any thoughts and opinions on this from others.


    SMART goals continue to be popular but people and organizations seem to still struggle with sustained success. One such development of this framework is the improved SMARTER model.
    E= Enjoyable/Ethical
    R= Reviewed/Rewarding

    These 2 extra letters seem to be more effective at capturing a wider range of motivations and gamification opportunities to attain success.

  • Edna Tan

    Well penned. I am already putting into action some of your ideas such as setting achievable goals and rewarding my team in recognition of their accomplishments and they worked out well and I see positive results. Tangible or intangible rewards do not have to be high in value. They have to be genuine enough for my team to feel that they have become more productive, conquered challenges and efforts paid off, the key to have them going the extra mile voluntarily. Thanks for sharing, Brian.

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  • Michael Hall

    Great write up Brian. If you begin with the big goal and break it down into many smaller goals, or simply brainstorm as much ideas as possible and keep adding more to the list as time goes by. Then all you gotta do is look over your list of ideas or tasks and first of all make sure they are S.M.A.R.T., and second make sure that each action you take is efficient as possible and done to the best of your ability. In other words if you take more efficient actions than not-so-efficient actions then you’ll have success. So don’t waste time and energy stabbing in the dark, make each action count, all seeds you sow won’t fall on good ground but if most of them fall on good ground then you will reach a tipping point and success will be guaranteed. This is the most important tip, make each action count, don’t do things that have little effect.

  • Adil

    Great job. I have one problem, even I have a SMART goal however I am struggling getting to work everyday it achieve it.

  • Teeceecounsel

    The secret to personal peak performance may differ from a collective one, but team play often makes for so much productivity.
    I wrote about peak performance recently. Click this to view. The Secret To Peak Performance.
    Imposition inhibits: Your idea of ‘ideal’ may differ from other people’s ideas. Do not impose your ideas on people. People should willingly agree to your terms or you let them go.
    A good manager knows the balance! Lovely post!

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