From the staff development bookshelf: How to set goals for improvement

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, July 22, 2011

When setting goals, use the SMART guide. Goals should be: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

Goal-setting theory affirms that in order to drive humans to put forth effort, goals must be clear, challenging, and agreed upon.

Goals that are clear should have a metric and a date assigned to them; if that is not the case, the goal should be behavioral and leave no room for ambiguity. An example of a behavioral goal (with no metric attached) is shown as follows:

  • Clear goal: develop and promote at least one nurse before 12/31 of this year
  • Ambiguous goal: develop your staff for leadership positions

The clear goal leaves no room to wonder what you need to shoot for. It gives you a target to shoot for and will likely motivate you to get to work thinking about how you are going to achieve the goal. It will cause a behavior change in you that is focused, versus the ambiguous "goal" of developing your staff, which might lead you to some actions that are diffuse (all staff attend a leadership workshop) or none at all.

Not all goals include metrics. You might have a goal to complete your master's of nursing degree by January 1 of next year. Although there is no metric, you will certainly know when you have met your goal since this statement meets all the other criteria for a SMART goal. It is specific, your diploma will be your measurement, it is achievable (assuming you have your bachelor of science and course work toward your master of science [MS] started, etc.), relevant, and time-bound.

Source: Book excerpt adapted from
Lead: Becoming an Effective Coach and Mentor to Your Nursing Staff by Patty Kubus, RN, MBA, PhD.

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