You have most likely heard the age-old question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one around to hear it, did it make a noise?” Here is a new one: “If you set a goal, and in the end, have nothing to show for it, did you truly make any progress?” With this question, we are making a critical observation about the importance of connecting articles of evidence to your personal development goals. Simply put, the most effective goals are tied to evidence-based outcomes, and we are about to show you why.
If You Cannot Measure It, You Cannot Manage It
In this article, we discuss the importance of setting SMARTER goals—ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound, evaluated, and readjusted. When we discuss the importance of tying your goals to outcomes, we are focusing on the measurable aspect of SMARTER goals. The results of quantifiable goals can be subjectively proven. Without qualifying what constitutes achievement, success determination is merely objective (read: not good enough).
Consider this scenario.
As a school leader, if you ask the sixth-grade math teachers in your district to improve student achievements, to what evidence would you look to determine success? Most likely, student course averages, test score results quarter-over-quarter, and standardized test scores year-over-year. You would not—and could not—rely alone on your teacher’s attestation that student performances are improving. You would not be satisfied with anecdotal, objective data, nor would parents or state education departments.
While academic performance in mathematics is easily measurable, every goal you set for yourself should be tied to a relevant, measurable outcome to determine success and progress.
Consider this scenario.
Perhaps your goal is to build a culture of community around your school. Seemingly, there are no apparent metrics to tell you if you have achieved community. After all, how do you quantify an intangible concept? Look harder. Start by thinking instead of the question in reverse. Why do you feel today that a sense of community does not surround your schools? Perhaps you would cite such issues as the following:
- Low participation in your Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
- Contentious relationships with community residents
- Little support on Election Day for propositions that would support your schools
- Low turnout in town hall-style meetings open to the community
If you know what’s missing from your district relative to a sense of community, then you can measure if you achieve such improvements. Perhaps you would tie your goals to such evidence-based outcomes as:
- Increased PTA members
- Improved school support from community members as measured by an engagement survey
- Higher votes in favor of propositions to support school funding
- Greater meeting participation
By identifying what is lacking, you can measure improvement, even when your overarching goal is broad and impacts a variety of horizontal factors.
How to Produce Outcomes-Based Goals that are Self-Directed
The concept of assessing progress through the identification and analysis of outcomes works just as well when the goal is one of personal self-improvement. For example, perhaps, your goal is to “improve your strategic thinking.” Maybe you have found that you often spend more time on day-to-day short-term tactical responsibilities (such as student disciplinary efforts) than on long-term strategic initiatives (how to improve teacher retention). Perhaps your habit of focusing on tactical responsibilities is the result of the decade you spent as a teacher before earning a promotion as a principal or superintendent. If this is the case, you are not alone and are wise to set a goal to improve your strategic focus. How, though, can one measure strategic acumen?
It can be done.
Again, ask yourself what is missing from your portfolio of accomplishments that indicate you are not spending enough time on strategic planning. Perhaps it is the creation of a 12-month district-wide improvement plan. Just that quickly, you have your deliverable.
Understand that there may be—and probably should be—many steps that you will need to take in between setting your goal of improving your strategic planning and being able to hold a district-wide improvement plan in your hands. The accomplishment is in all the steps it will take to get there. Such actions may include attending a strategic planning seminar for school leaders, the review of plans created by fellow leaders in nearby districts, the identification of a coach or mentor to help you think strategically, and collaboration with faculty and staff on what is needed to achieve the district’s goals. Use your final deliverable to craft your roadmap for what you need to do today and tomorrow to achieve your ultimate evidence-based goal in a month, six months, a year, or two years.
Final Words of Advice
If adding a measurable outcome to your goal planning feels like just one more hurdle to achievement, understand that your final deliverable is not an obstacle. It is the key to defining the path you will take to progress, and understanding what success will look like when you reach it. Without a way to determine success, you will not feel quite the same level of satisfaction when it comes time for your annual performance evaluation, and you ask yourself the critical question: Did I accomplish my goals this year? When you can point to definitive, identifiable, objective progress, you will feel the confidence and satisfaction of knowing that you have been successful—and most importantly, you will know how to set an even higher bar for next year.
How Can SuperEval Help?
Superintendents and school leaders can use SuperEval to drag and drop articles of evidence directly into your evaluation. In essence, you are setting goals and providing solid evidence on how you’ve achieved them. Contact us to find out more.
Related Article: How to Use Your Evaluation to Set Goals for the Next School Year