When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter

Increased engagement. Improved performance. Greater job satisfaction. We can all agree these are desirable states for ourselves, and if we’re supervisors, for our employees as well. Goal setting, when thoughtfully conducted, is a primary way we set up ourselves and others for achievement, innovation and fulfillment. So, how do we create meaningful goals? Goal-setting methodologies like the SMART and HARD frameworks can help.

Setting Goals

At MSU, goals are often established as a component of Performance Excellence, with clear performance goals and objectives identified and communicated at the beginning, as well as throughout, the performance process. Goals identify what is expected and create ways to strive for improvement and growth.

There are two types of goals to consider: performance goals and development goals.

  • Performance goals are typically short-term objectives that could be accomplished in a fiscal year and are related to current position job duties.
  • Development goals are related to a skill or knowledge area that will be strengthened. They might include training or experiences that will help the individual develop further into their role or career.

In other words, performance goals are something you will achieve, and development goals are something you will learn. Whether the goal is related to performance or development, it should support the mission of the university, your department and/or a specific project or program.

Making Goals SMART

To create meaningful goals, one approach is to make the goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

  • Specific: well defined, clear and unambiguous; specifically defining what’s expected to be done/delivered. 
  • Measurable: specific criteria for measuring progress toward accomplishing each established goal.
  • Achievable: requires effort — a stretch — but are not impossible to achieve.
  • Relevant: goals are related to the department’s mission and/or a specific project or program.
  • Timely: the time frame is clearly defined or progress toward achievement is tracked at regular intervals.

For example, an initial goal to Complete report on time could be reworked as a SMART goal by adding an action verb and specific details. The goal then becomes Complete finance report, without errors, by COB on the first Friday of each month. SMART goals follow achievable and realistic guidelines and typically make it easy to demonstrate whether a goal ultimately is reached.

The potential downside? With a primary focus on being realistic and achievable, SMART goals may encourage us to “play it safe” and work within set limitations, which can feel counterproductive and uninspiring in the current culture of innovation and boldness.


If you or your employees find yourself lacking motivation when using SMART goals, try creating goals that are HARD: Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult.

  • Heartfelt: achieving the goal will enrich the lives of others (e.g., customers, the community); attachment can be formed to the goal on a deep, meaningful level.
  • Animated:vivid picture is created of how it will feel when the goal is achieved; the results and impact of the goal can be visualized, and a strong emotional connection is established.
  • Required: a sense of urgency is present, and we want to take action right away; the goals are necessary to help our organization.
  • Difficult: new skills must be learned, and we’re challenged to stretch beyond our comfort zones for success.

The potential downside? Setting HARD goals typically cannot be done with the speed and simplicity of creating SMART goals, leading to a greater time and energy investment.

Creating Goals that Matter

If you find the goals you set are not leading to the results you want, try utilizing the SMART or HARD frameworks or, even better, apply elements from both to create goals that drive and engage fully. Creating “stretch” goals makes our objectives vital to the university and allows us to drive innovation and boldness. Whether you prefer SMART or HARD, strive to create goals that don’t just look good on paper but leap off the page to truly inspire.


MSU Human Resources. Goal Setting Tips. Retrieved August 15, 2020 from https://hr.msu.edu/ua/performanceexcellence/tools-goalsetting.html

Murphy, M. Are SMART Goals Dumb? Retrieved August 18, 2020 from https://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/35353793-are-smart-goals-dumb

Job of the Week – Development/Events Coordinator

This week’s job of the week is a Development/Events Coordinator (#644180) for the Michigan State University College of Law. This position is seeking an individual to oversee and implement Law College events and symposia.

The responsibilities for this role include facilitating programs for faculty, academic directors, and student leaders, developing and managing event budgets, and providing administrative assistance for the Advancement Team. Additional responsibilities for this role include coordinating planning meetings for upcoming events, working closely with vendors in properly executing contracted services, and preparing detailed event agendas that account for related activities and schedules.

The ideal candidate would possess knowledge equivalent to that which normally would be acquired by completing a four-year degree in Public Relations, Communications, Business or in an area related to the work being performed; 1-3 years of event-related experience including the coordination of individual and group events; see job posting for a complete list of desired qualifications.

For more details on the responsibilities of this position, and to view all our current postings, visit careers.msu.edu. Internal applicants should access postings through the Careers @ MSU tile in the EBS Portal.

Spartan Youth Programs and Summer Camps

Summer is quickly approaching, so you may want to check out the list of over 100 Spartan Youth Programs and summer camps for Pre-K through 12th graders. These programs offered by Michigan State University are great opportunities for children and young adults to take part in the Spartan experience and develop themselves academically. There are many 4-H camps available for all age groups, along with exciting creativity-driven camps that ignite children’s imaginations. There are also many different sporting camps, ranging from baseball and basketball to gymnastics, tennis, golf, football and hockey. Take a look at all the camps offered through Spartan Youth Programs and find one that your children would enjoy at: http://spartanyouth.msu.edu.Spartan Youth Programs graphic

A list of popular places to visit on campus can also be found below the list of programs, camps and activities.

New Supervisor Essentials Course

Continual learning and networking is the key to supervisory success. Don’t go it alone.Person choosing a path

Are you a recently appointed or newly hired supervisor or manager? If so, or if you are just looking to brush up on your leadership skills as a manager or supervisor, the monthly-held New Supervisor Essentials professional development course is available on Thursday, April 16 or Wednesday, May 13 from 8:30 a.m.- 1 p.m. in Suite 10 of the Nisbet Building. This session is designed to provide you with support and information to help you get off to a good start in your important role as a leader at MSU. Content includes an overview of leadership skills, administering Employee Relations and a panel discussion with current MSU supervisors. Lunch will be provided and attendance is free. Your presenters will be Jennie Yelvington and Kathie Elliott of MSU Human Resources.

To find more courses offered through the Professional Development Services Department check out their catalog. To register for this course, please log into EBS.

Events Round-Up March 2015

Here are some events happening over the next month that may be of interest to MSU faculty and staff. Please visit the links for more information. Many events require registration.

Community Events

Every Saturday and Sunday – 1 p.m. or 3 p.m.

Free Guided Museum Tours @ Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

Friday, March 13, and Saturday, March 14, 2015

St. Patrick’s Day Celebration – Times vary, Grand Ledge.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Grand Traverse Pie Company Pi Day – All Day, all locations.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

MSU Wind Symphony – 7:30 p.m., Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Maple Syrup Festival – 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Fenner Nature Center.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Breakfast with Mark Dantonio – 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m., Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center

Development, Training, & Wellness

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Supervisor Essentials – 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Suite 10, Nisbet

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Recipe for Health Cooking Series: Olive Oil – 12:10 p.m. – 12:50 p.m., Brody Square or Online

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Healing Power of Guided Imagery – 12:10 p.m. – 12:50 p.m., Abrams Planetarium

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Communicating Up – 8:30 a.m. – noon, Suite 10, Nisbet

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Boosting Your Career with ElevateU (Lunch and Learn) – 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Suite 10, Nisbet

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Managing Confrontational Customers – 8:30 a.m. – noon., Suite 10, Nisbet




Enhance Your Service With The Spartan Experience

Said one participant, “[The Spartan Experience is] one of the most fun, memorable customer service classes I’ve attended.”
The Spartan Experience program addresses the key concepts, habits and vital behaviors that are universal to providing excellent service and creating outstanding experiences. The program provides the foundation and tools that equip staff supervisors and managers to define the service experience in their specific unit. It helps all participating understand how they help MSU distinguish and embrace a high-performance customer-service culture. Since its start in October 2013, over 1,600 employees have participated in The Spartan Experience from over 30 departments. More than 400 supervisors have attended Leading the Spartan Experience, designed to introduce them to the concepts and resources available.

Don’t hesitate, register for The Spartan Experience today! To do so, log into EBS and select the Training Opportunities quick link under your ESS tab.

This spring, there will be multiple classes held:

Thursday, January 15
Friday, January 16
Friday, February 20
Monday, February 23
Tuesday, February 24
Thursday, March 12
Friday, March 13
Monday, March 16
Thursday, April 16
Friday, April 17
Monday, April 20
Tuesday, April 21

Suite 10, Nisbet  Building

8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Also, for supervisors, Leading the Spartan Experience is available:

Tuesday, February 3
Thursday, March 19
Monday, April 16

Suite 10, Nisbet Building

2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.