Paul B. Thornton

Let’s assume you manager 10 people.  

Step 1—start by understanding your boss’ goals. Your goals need to align and support his or her goals.


The acronym, SMART, is often used to highlight the important characteristics of effective goals.

  • Specific—Pinpoint exactly what you want completed. Vague goals such as “improve quality” or “cut costs” are open to interpretation and create confusion. A goal such as, “By October 1, cut expenses by 17 percent” is specific and measurable.

Assign each goal to one employee. When you don’t establish single-point accountability, here’s what happens. “Everybody was sure somebody would do it, but nobody did.”

  • Meaningful—”Your goal is to keep an accurate count of the number of Zoom meetings you attend each week.” Goals that are irrelevant and insignificant waste time and demotivate employees. Meaningful goals motivate employees. Employees want to know how their goals relate to the bigger picture—the strategic plan, the company’s competitive advantage, and mission.  

Personal development is also a meaningful goal. Establish one goal that requires the employee to learn a new skill or improve a current skill. (Developing talent is an important part of every manager’s job.)

  • Accepted—Goals must be accepted by the employees who have to work hard to achieve them. Challenging goals stretch people, but employees need to believe they are achievable.  

Involve your employees in establishing their goals and discussing the plan to accomplish them. The more you involve your employees, the more ownership and commitment they will have.    

  • Reviewed—Some goals need to be reviewed and adjusted when conditions change. Goals need to be updated when there is significant change in the marketplace.   

In some cases, the goal remains unchanged and the review is focused on revising the plan to achieve the goal.

  • Time-bounded—Every goal needs a deadline. Specific dates and times provide focus and reduces confusion. Goals without deadlines have a way of slipping away.

All goals are not of equal importance. Make sure your employees understand which goals are their top priority and will be weighted the most. 

SMART goals provide focus, create buy-in, and motivate employees.


Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His e-books are available at Amazon and include:

  • Is Your Organization Aligned? ($4.99)
  • Leadership-Perfecting Your Approach and Style ($1.99)   
  • Leadership Case Studies ($4.99)  

Paul has produced 28 short YouTube videos on various management and leadership topics. (Search: Paul Thornton & stcc)

He frequently posts his views and opinions about leadership on LinkedIn.  

His email is [email protected]