SMART Goals (Performance Objectives) For Assistants

Why Assistants Should Want Them

Performance objectives are important for three reasons. One, they establish clear performance expectations between the assistant and supervising manager. Secondly, they are used to determine year-end bonuses and merit increases. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, performance objectives allow each assistant to identify areas for training, or exposure opportunities in areas he/she is interested in. Bottom line, establishing performance objectives helps YOU establish YOUR career path. Maybe the career path is to be the best executive assistant in the world, or maybe you want to move into a different department, or maybe you want to move into meeting planning–whatever your ideal career path is, performance goals can be a roadmap that you build upon year after year to help you reach your longterm career goals. And they can document you making a difference and adding value.

What Goals/Objectives Are & What They Are Not

Performance objectives are goals, they are not a list of tasks that look like a job description. All too often I’ve seen assistants submit a list of tasks as their objectives. Tasks aren’t strategic. Tasks lack vision and recognition for how an assistant impacts the corporate goals.

So how can an assistant take the corporate goals and propose individual performance objectives that demonstrate the impact his, or her role can make on the company’s goals? How does an assistant right SMART Goals?

SMART= Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic, and Time-bound

Today, I’m going to walk you through the steps I recommend in my workbook, Goal Setting for Assistants. For the purpose of this newsletter, I won’t be able to provide examples, but a full example, from beginning to end is provided in Goal Setting for Assistants.

Let’s Get SMART

Before you begin, gather this information.

  • The corporate goals.
  • Your manager’s goals with metrics and deliverables.
  • Your job description.
  • Your prior year performance review.
  • Your job family matrix if available, or a job description for the next level position, or the position you are aspiring to obtain. If a description does not exist, speak to a peer and draft a description of the role.



List 1: Identify Your Top 4 Strengths

A strength is only a strength if it is a skill that you always perform above average and always perform consistently.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the above guidance. Before adding anything to your strengths list, ask yourself, ‘Do I perform this skill exceptionally well?’ ‘Do I deliver this skill every time it is required?’ If the answer is ‘no’ to either one of these questions, it’s not a strength of yours.

Create a list of your top 4 strengths and ask yourself:

  • Do I demonstrate this skill exceptionally well?
  • Do I demonstrate this skill consistently?
  • How can I apply this strength to my manager’s goals?
  • How can I have an impact on the organization and develop others with this strength?

List 2: Identify Two Areas for development

Developmental areas can be broken down into two categories: Career & Training Development and Performance Development.

Create a list of your Top 2 Areas for Development and ask yourself:

  • What constructive criticism did I receive from my manager on my last performance review?
  • What constructive criticism did I receive from my peers?
  • What experience, or training do I need to meet the qualifications for the next grade and level on my career path?

List 3: Identify 2 Time-Killers

A Time Killer is any expectation, pattern, ongoing action, process, or lack of process that is an inefficient use of your time or an inefficient use of a company resource. A Time Killer prevents you from being fully leveraged and from making a greater contribution and an impact on the organization. (detailed examples are provided in Goal Setting for Assistants)

Create a list of the Top 2 Time Killers, and ask yourself:

  • What is taking the majority of my time at work?
  • How can I improve my own processes and be more proficient in my role?
  • Am I effectively using companywide resources?
  • Am I being leveraged in the right areas and am I available to work on priority projects?

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Compare your strengths to the goals of your manager and department and ask yourself:

  • How can I help reach some, or all of my manager’s, or department goals?
  • How can I help develop team members and work with others to accomplish these goals?

Your Goal #1 (maybe 2) equals the Action of one of your Strengths that you will apply to a specific goal of your manager’s. (a specific example is available in Goal Setting for Assistants)

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Compare your area for development to your job description and ask yourself:

  • What areas for development will improve my performance and enhance my capabilities?
  • Which career and training opportunities do I need to move to the next level in the job family matrix?

Your Goal #2 & 3 will be the Action you take to improve an area of development that will also improve your performance in responsibilities. (a specific example is available in Goal Setting for Assistants)

Goal Setting for Assistants

Compare your strengths to your Time Killers and ask yourself:

  • How can I use my strengths to address Time Killers and create process improvement?

Your Goals #4-5 will be the Strengths you apply and the Action you take to improve a process or responsibility that is a inefficient use of your time, taking you away from supporting your manager in a more impactful way. (a specific example is available in Goal Setting for Assistants)

Goal Setting for Assistants


Now that you have identified goals #1-5 on the previous worksheets, you can complete the goal worksheet, or online form that your human resources department has provided, and meet with your manager to review your goals. (a specific example is available in Goal Setting for Assistants)

During this meeting with your manager you will not only collect important feedback and approval on the direction you’re proposing, but also on how you will focus your time for the next year. Most human resources departments will ask you to ‘weight’ or prioritize your goals within a 100% workload and the easiest way to prioritize your goals is to review them with your manager.

A good manager will take your goals seriously and make sure that you agree on your goals. Working together, the two of you can tweak this first draft of your goals as necessary to establish clear and deliverable expectations for the future.

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Meet with your manager, let him, or her know about this tool and gather the below helpful information:

  • The corporate goals
  • Your manager’s, or the department’s goals & metrics/deliverables
  • Your job family matrix if available
  • Your job description
  • Your prior year’s performance review

Make the time to focus on using this tool to draft your goals for next year, or revise vague goals currently in place:

  • Block off your calendar.
  • Book a conference room to avoid distractions/interruptions.

Ask a Peer:

  • Practice presenting your draft goals with another assistant, or bouncing your ideas off a peer.

Review your proposed goals with your supervisor for alignment and approval on the goals and the percentage weight.

Set up quarterly meetings with your supervisor to review your progress against the goals:

  • Remind your supervisor what you are working on.
  • Get feedback and coaching as you go – don’t wait for your year-end performance review.
  • Adjust your goals together and as necessary if the business needs change.

Keep a list of your accomplishments and contributions throughout the year. Doing so will help you with your year-end review and setting the following year’s goals.


Congratulations. You dedicated time to yourself, and your goals are done. You have clarity on your focus and purpose for the next year at work. You have clear expectations set with your manager. You are looking forward in a way that may not only improve your performance, but might increase your career path trajectory.

In parting, learn to toot your own horn. Learn to point out your accomplishments and don’t wait for recognition. If you want to move your career forward by becoming more proficient in your role, or if you want to change your title and try something new, it’s up to you to take action. Don’t wait for your manager, or the company to do it for you.

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