SMART Goal Examples Part 2: Leadership Development Activities

Eileen AzzaraExperiential learning, Individual Development Plan, SMART goals

leadership development activities
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In my last post, I provided a few examples of SMART goals for developing competencies or “soft skills” (as opposed to technical skills). Samples were written for the common yet vague goals to “be a better communicator” and “improve leadership skills.” If you haven’t already done so, I recommend you read that post first before continuing with this one, because this post is a continuation of that example. This post will focus on leadership development activities as opposed to leadership development goals.

In development planning, there’s a difference between goals and activities. Goals set the foundation for what the activities should be, while activities support the goal and should be established after the SMART goal is written.

Writing Leadership Development Activities is Not Easy!

Although it’s widely recognized that true development requires application of learning material that extends far beyond formalized training, it’s still common for leadership development activities to be comprised mainly of commitments to attend some sort of leadership boot camp, read some popular leadership books, or perhaps if there is budget, participate in leadership coaching.

Unless you work in L&D and have expertise in development planning, don’t be ashamed if this resonates with you. Most employees are not experts in development planning, particularly when it comes to leadership development activities. Loading up a non-HR employee with a stack of development “resources” that require hours to parse through, organize, and customize is the equivalent of providing an individual who’s barely cooked anything in life with the recipe for Gordon Ramsey’s beef wellington and asking for it to be cooked medium rare. Possible, yes, but also likely to be painful and demotivating.

Here are a two sets of examples for leadership development activities that support the SMART goals for leadership development written in the previous post. Each set follows a model that starts with a learning activity and is then followed by the sequential phases of planning, practice, application, and measurement. Each activity should have its own deadline and if necessary, documentation for required resources, contingencies, etc.

Example 1

Provide feedback to members of a project team regarding their performance that is viewed as meaningful and timely.


  • Read ­­­this blog about giving feedback.
  • Attend company training on giving feedback to employees.


  • Establish a schedule for how often I’ll give feedback and a method for tracking it to hold myself accountable.


  • Participate in an assessment center exercise where I role play giving feedback to a person.
  • Prepare for one discussion and role play the discussion with a colleague.


  • Establish a practice for giving feedback to 1 new person each week until everyone has received it at least once. Make sure feedback is delivered within the timeframe previously specified.
  • Schedule feedback sessions on my calendar to remind me.
  • Debrief with the employee after giving the feedback.


  • Conduct a brief feedback survey of employees asking about the quality and timeliness of my feedback.
  • Review the tracked data that shows the time span between when an incident or event occurred and when I gave the feedback, evaluate against the target I set.

Example 2

Motivate employees in the organization to stay focused and persevere through challenges when working on a project.



  • Collect data to learn what motivates employees in my organization.
    • Review engagement survey results.
    • Go to lunch with 2 employees per month. At the lunch, ask questions about what they find motivating and demotivating.


  • Experiment with new motivational techniques that I learned from research and talking to employees. Try out at least 3 different approaches.


  • Identify the most effective strategy that worked in the practice phase and begin using it when challenges on a project surface.


  • Conduct a brief feedback survey of employees asking about the effectiveness of my motivational techniques during challenging times.
  • Review team turnover statistics between Q3 and Q4 as compared to Q1 and Q2.
  • Review project successes and failures for the past two quarters.

Remember these are just examples, there are many more leadership development activities that could be relevant to these goals. What would you add or change? Have you done any of these activities or helped a client do so? Share in the comments!

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