Faith Leaders: Get CLEAR Before You Get SMART

get clear before smart

SMART goals have been making the rounds on my LinkedIn feeds as people become even more interested in productivity and personal “optimization.” The pandemic has underscored the American obsession with productivity, and the ability to set clear, measurable goals is seen as a sign of success.

In faith communities, SMART goals have been the go-to choice for hitting milestones and achieving steady growth– in theory. In reality, SMART goals fail faith communities when they are the sole goal-setting process used.  

If you’re a faith leader who feels limited by SMART goals, then this post is for you!

CLEAR Goals vs. SMART Goals

For faith communities relying on SMART goals, their ability to see beyond numbers is limited. SMART goals fail to account for why a goal is even important in the first place. In a time where attendance in faith communities is low, it’s imperative that all aspects of a community be tracked to make sure you are achieving impact. 

Attendance, pledges, number of families, etc.– these are not necessarily the best metrics on which to base the growth and vitality of your community. Metrics like new mission projects, the impact of spiritual formation programs, and a felt overall sense of purpose can reveal more about how people experience your community than numbers alone.

While SMART goals are excellent at achieving quantitative results, they don’t account for the very human elements that make achieving goals challenging. Faith communities looking to transform the lives of members and participants need a more transformative framework that takes a holistic view of the community itself. 

SMART goals are rigid and focus on the result of the goal itself rather than the process and the overall mission that the goal serves. Faith leaders working towards justice and liberation need a goal-setting process that keeps the overall mission and vision of their traditions in mind.

Cue CLEAR goals. 

Created by Adam Kreek, Olympic gold medalist and member of the Canadian rowing team in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, CLEAR stands for collaborative, limited, emotional, appreciable, and refinable. CLEAR goals are designed to unite a team in service of a higher cause. 

How to Get CLEAR

You can use the CLEAR framework in a team setting or for your personal goals. If using it as a team, have everyone complete the process individually after setting the big goal with your team. This way, everyone involved will have answered the questions for themselves and will be much more invested in achieving the overall goal.

  • Collaborative: Who’s on your team? What are each person’s strengths? How do our strengths complement each other? 
  • Limited: When does the goal start and end?
  • Emotional: Are we passionate about this goal? What emotional hurdles might we anticipate while working to achieve this goal? 
  • Appreciable: What are the milestones? What is the next smallest step we can take to achieve this goal? 
  • Refinable: Is this working? Do we need to adapt/change anything?

This framework uses qualitative variables in addition to quantitative ones to give you a full picture of a goal’s effectiveness. It also embeds revision into the framework, thus eliminating the stigma that can come with not achieving a goal as planned. A less rigid container for your goals helps keep them agile and adaptable.

Using CLEAR goals creates conditions that everyone involved in the goal-setting process can relate to. The CLEAR process puts values and mission out in front so that it is easy to see how each step along the way to achieving your goal aligns with your community’s purpose and vision.

It also works very well in organizations with a flat leadership structure where decisions are made in a more collaborative context. Because collaboration is a pillar of the CLEAR process, it’s possible for everyone involved to feel valued and like they contributed to something great.

If you can’t let go of SMART goals, that’s OK. Having appreciable goals means that you can set many milestones along the way, some of which can be SMART. That said, I invite you to try using SMART goals ONLY for quantitative results. Use them to measure your numbers-based milestones and leave everything else to the CLEAR process. 

You’ll be glad you did; so will your new members.

Need help getting CLEAR? Contact Taj for a free consultation.

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