Setting goals is an important part of any learning and development program. But for mentors and mentees, goal setting is crucial due to the often very specific needs of the mentee and the tailored guidance that the mentor will want to provide.
The SMART model is the best approach for effective goal setting during mentoring. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-bound.
You and your mentor should start off with clear and open communication about your aspirations and the challenges you face. You should try to define what success looks like for you and your business or career.
Then, get down to the specifics of what you need to do to achieve this vision. Be as precise as possible. Broad and vague goals are harder to define and even more difficult to achieve.
Instead of ‘Lead my team more effectively’, a mentee might want to consider exactly where their leadership skills fall short, and come up with a more airtight goal like, ‘Implement effective time-management strategies for my staff’.
From the moment a mentor and mentee start devising goals, they will want to be thinking about how they will know when the goal has been achieved. There needs to be some kind of tangible outcome that they can use as a measure of success.
Again, if there is no way for the mentor and mentee to identify if a goal has been met, then it will be that much harder to achieve and the mentee’s enthusiasm may wane.
Setting and meeting SMART goals relies on the mentor encouraging the mentee to act rather than contemplate.
So often, we procrastinate and fool ourselves into thinking we are being productive by telling ourselves, ‘I will explore avenues for this,’ or ‘I will think about how I can do that’.
SMART goals are different, they require action. There must be a clear action that the mentee must take in order to set about achieving the specific goal. A mentor can help by steering the mentee away from unclear or immaterial tangents.
It is good for a mentee to have one larger, overall goal for their future. However, this wider vision needs to be broken down into smaller objectives in order to remain realistic.
SMART goals prevent the mentee from trying to run before they can walk. Realistic goals also allow the mentor a better chance of keeping the mentee on track.
When a goal seems out of reach, both the mentor and the mentee’s enthusiasm for the task will be difficult to maintain. It is far more productive for them to work together toward smaller, more achievable goals that provide measurable progression.
In the SMART model, it is important that the goals have some kind of urgency. Setting deadlines will propel the mentee forward in their progression toward their larger vision for the future.
When a SMART goal is set, you should be able to say, ‘I would like to achieve W. I will action this by doing X. To analyse my success, I will measure how much Y has changed by Z date’.
Using SMART goals in mentoring means that the mentor and mentee always have something tangible to work toward. The goals and deadlines provide check-in points and stepping-stones around which to construct agendas and strategies for each mentoring session.
SMART goals also prevent the mentee from becoming frustrated if things are moving slower than they had hoped. Great things take time and having measurable indicators of success will make this process feel far more rewarding.
Ultimately of course, both the mentor and mentee will want to determine if the mentoring relationship is working. SMART goals will help both parties to see the real benefits of the sessions or identify what might not be working so well. This insight can then be used to optimise the mentor-mentee relationship.