SMART or SAFE? Setting Goals and the Leadership Brain

Goal setting is vital to the success of every team – and the process also increases brain performance. According to neuroscience consultant Marilee Sprenger in ” The Leadership Brain for Dummies,” the brain sees goal-setting as an extension of itself – it takes ownership of the goal and the accomplishment.

But what do you do when your team has different kinds of “brains” trying to set goals? Could it be that you need to consider two kinds of goals?

The SMART approach to goal-setting is linear, logical, and very left-brain oriented. Those teams that think in a left-brained format appreciate this type of goal setting because it is easy to track and measure. SMART goals are:

  • Specific – each goal specifies your target exactly.
  • Measurable – each goal must be measurable so you know when you’ve reached it – or not.
  • Achievable – a goal that is within reach increases motivation and those brain chemicals that keep you motivate.
  • Realistic – a realistic goal is one your team has the resources to realize.
  • Time – specific time frames provide clear deadlines for action.

But what about teams that aren’t as left-brained? How do they set goals? Consider SAFE goals. Approaching goals in a nonlinear manner appeals more to the right hemisphere of the brain. If your team members are creative, visual, and right-brain dominant, consider SAFE goals:

  • See it – see yourself working toward the goal; then picture it already achieved.
  • Accept it – accept that you can achieve the goal, and picture what that looks like.
  • Feel it – adding emotion to your visualization is very powerful: feel good about your accomplishment; enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
  • Express it – visualize yourself telling others about the accomplishment of the goal; make presentations at team meetings about your contribution to the success.

The SAFE method is especially good for those brains that need to have the big picture in order to accept the fact that they can in fact accomplish their goals.

So, does your team need SMART or SAFE goals? Or a combination of both?

As leader, it’s your job to know the difference and lead accordingly!

Next: Bridging the Digital Divide


inspired by The Leadership Brain for Dummies, by Marilee Sprenger

Leadership Brain for Dummies


4 thoughts on “SMART or SAFE? Setting Goals and the Leadership Brain

  1. Pingback: 60 Minutes To Clear Goals | reubenssite

  2. Pingback: Set Your Goals Right to Have Personal Success | KXW Blog

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