Get SMART with your veterinary team

May 28, 2019
Sarah Mouton Dowdy
Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Sarah Mouton Dowdy, a former associate content specialist for dvm360.com, is a freelance writer and editor in Kansas City, Missouri.

Heres how to use the famed acronym (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to help your team members pursue professional development at individual and group levels.

Think specifically and carefully about what you can control. (Good Studio/stock.adobe.com)

“Goals” is becoming a throwaway word.

We live in a society where “goals” is attached to polished images of lifestyles, romantic relationships, friend groups, families and bodies that supposedly epitomize the height of perfection. What's ironic (depressing?) about this trend is that the word is often applied to areas we have little to no control over and tends to cause melancholic longing instead of determined ambition.

SMART-y stance

Though SMART goals predate social media, they offer a framework for avoiding the inertia caused by what I'll call “#goals”- the kind of goals that work well for Instagram personas but not real people. SMART goals are defined by action and agency, as they answer the following questions:

Specific. Who and what does the goal involve? Why is it worthy of pursuit?

Measurable. How will the goal be evaluated? How will progress be measured?

Achievable. Is the goal within the goal setter's power? (For example, don't set a goal to ensure that all clients are 100% satisfied when you know you can't control how a person feels. You can, however, set a goal that relates to how you treat clients.)

Relevant. Does the goal make sense with regards to the goal setter's job and the business objectives as a whole?

Time-bound. When will the goal be met (timeframe or specific date)?

Get SMART with your team

Practice owners, practice managers and team leads can employ SMART goals to drive improvement and growth at both individual and team levels. Download the SMART goals worksheet here and read on for how to use it in practice.

Select the image to download.

Individual goals. Team members can feel like cogs in the machine. Take the time to meet with individuals to develop SMART goals that appeal to their professional interests and aspirations. When team members are encouraged to pursue their professional development, both the individuals and the team win (not to mention the veterinary hospital, the clients, the patients, etc.).

For example, you might learn that one of the veterinary technicians in your practice is interested in becoming a certified anesthesia and analgesia specialist. The process of converting this interest into a clearly defined, written SMART goal will help your technician think through the big picture as well as the next steps, and you'll have a better idea of how to offer support and encouragement along the way.

Team goals. SMART goals can also work at the team level. As with individual goals, don't dictate the goal you would like to work toward. Allow your team to brainstorm ideas and choose one together. For example, your team may decide they'd like to pursue Fear Free Practice certification. By writing it out as a SMART goal and posting it in a common area, everyone involved can contribute and take some ownership for the path the goal takes.

For both individual and team SMART goals, keep in mind that they can change. Regularly reevaluate to ensure that the end goal and its components still make sense. For example, your team may find that the original timeframe for a goal is no longer realistic. Instead of abandoning the goal or feeling like a failure, just tweak the date and keep moving forward.

Write that down and pass it around

The results of a study led by Gail Matthews, PhD, a psychology professor from Dominican University of California, suggest that writing down goals, committing to goal-directed actions and seeking accountability in these actions positively influences goal achievement in the workplace. Only 43 percent of study participants who merely thought about their goals accomplished them or at least got halfway there. On the other hand, 76 percent of those who wrote down their goals and action commitments and shared weekly progress reports with a friend either accomplished their goals or got halfway.

Not every goal can (or should) be SMART

SMART goals can be great, but they aren't the be all and end all. Not all goals fit neatly into the SMART framework. You may have a goal of owning a practice 10 years from now, for instance. That's not a bad or unworthy goal but you can't quite convert it into a SMART goal at this very moment. Hang on to long-term, lofty goals because at some point, they may be ready for the SMART treatment.

Sarah Mouton Dowdy is a former dvm360 content specialist.