DUMB Goals

March 4, 2012

We have all heard of SMART Goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time bound. The term was invented by G.T. Doran way back in 1981 (Management Review, Volume 70, Issue 11(AMA FORUM), pp. 35-36).

I thought it might be a perfect time, 31 years later, to upgrade the thinking and add some DUMB Goals. DUMB stands for Doable, Uncompromising, Manageable, and Beneficial. Here are my thoughts on why DUMB Goals are important in our society today:

Doable – In our global economy, we have stretched resources in nearly every organization beyond the elastic limit. As leaders pull on resources in an ever- intensifying quest for more productivity, more and more people reach a burnout stage or just quit trying to stretch. What is needed is to go for quantum leaps in productivity. The incremental approach or Kaizen has served us well for 30 years, and now we need to find new afterburners to take us to a higher orbit. This additional thrust can be achieved by having a more robust culture based on higher trust. Trust within an organization has been shown to improve productivity by 2-3 times. Leaders need to seek higher levels of trust as a means to achieve seemingly impossible productivity goals.

Uncompromising – As everything has become ultra critical, the tendency is to slack off on some of the basics. We have seen several organizations slip backward on the quality principles that provided improvements through the last 2-3 decades. A classic example of this is Toyota. When they got so wrapped up in being the biggest, they took their eye off the very engine that was powering their rise to stardom. They paid a dear price for that mistake. If organizations are so hell bent on productivity and profits that they forget to invest in the basic building blocks of quality and culture, they are sowing the seeds of their own demise.

Manageable – In most organizations today, the goals set out for people are too many and far too complex for human beings to manage. What you get is a watered-down approach to performance rather than the laser-focused and potent enthusiasm of the entire team. The answer here is better focus. I cringe when I see a strategic plan with 18 critical thrusts. It ain’t going to happen folks! For a manageable array of critical result areas, keep the number of thrusts down to three, or four at the most.

Beneficial – It is time for a broader view of organizational output. We have become more environmentally conscious over the past decade, but we are still far off the mark if we are going to save our space ship. We need to dig a lot deeper into our environmental conscience to at least double our efforts to preserve the environment.

Social awareness is lagging environmental activities, although some organizations are starting to gain in this area. We need to encourage more socially-conscious corporate decisions. This means taking a hard look at where products are produced and not supporting socially irresponsible sourcing. That equilibrium may come at the expense of some short term profitability, so it is less popular with the insatiable companies who are intent on squeezing out every last penny. I believe the organizations that are moving in the right direction will ultimately prevail. We need a balance of organizations doing the right things for the right long-term reasons.

It is a totally different world in 2012 than it was in 1981. There is nothing wrong with pursuing SMART Goals, but I think organizations would be well served by also considering the DUMB Goals as well.


Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

January 14, 2012

Can you improve your Emotional Intelligence by plowing your driveway? I think so, and I will explain a fascinating analogy later in this article. I read a recent book on Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves entitled Emotional Intelligence 2.0. If you have not been exposed to this book, perhaps my article will whet your appetite to purchase it.

The authors start out by giving a single sentence definition of Emotional Intelligence (which is abbreviated as EQ rather than EI, and proves that whoever invented the acronym did not have a high IQ). Emotional Intelligence is “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” This leads to a description of the four quadrants of EQ as described by Daniel Goleman in 1995.

1. Self Awareness – Ability to recognize your own emotions
2. Self Management – Ability to manage your emotions
3. Social Awareness – Ability to understand emotions in others
4. Relationship Management – Ability to manage interactions

The book contains a link to an online survey that lets you measure your own EQ. This is an interesting exercise, but it lacks validity, because people with low EQ have blind spots as described by Goleman. You might rate yourself highly in EQ when the truth, in the absence of blind spots, is somewhat lower. Still it is nice to have a number so you can compare current perceptions to a future state after you have made improvements.

Most of the book consists of potential strategies for improving Emotional Intelligence in any of the four quadrants described above. You get to pick the quadrant to work on and which strategies (about 17 suggestions for each quadrant) you think would work best for you. The approach is to work on only one quadrant, using three strategies at a time for the most impact. The authors also suggest getting an EQ Mentor whom you select. The idea is to work on your EQ for six months and retest for progress, then select a different quadrant and three appropriate strategies.

The most helpful and hopeful part of the book for me is where the authors discuss the three main influences on performance: Intelligence, Personality, and Emotional Intelligence. The observation is that it is impossible to change your IQ (Intelligence) and very difficult to change your Personality, but without too much effort, you can make huge progress in your EQ.

The trick is to train your brain to work slightly differently by creating new neural pathways from the emotional side of the brain to the rational side of the brain. This is where plowing your driveway comes in. We are bombarded by stimuli every day. These stimuli enter our brain through the spinal cord and go immediately to the limbic system, which is the emotional side of the brain. That is why we first have an emotional reaction to any stimulus. The signals have to travel to the rational side of the brain for us to have a conscious reaction and decide on our course of action. To do this, the electrical signal has to navigate through a kind of driveway in our brain called the Corpus Callosum.

The Corpus Callosum is a fibrous flat belt of tissue in the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres. How easily and quickly the signals can move through the Corpus Callosum determines how effective we will be at controlling our emotions. This is a critical part of the Personal Competency model as described by Goleman. Now the good news: whenever we are thinking about, reading about, working on, teaching others, etc. about EQ, what we are doing is plowing the snow out of the way in the Corpus Callosum so the signals can transfer more easily. Translated, working with the concept of EQ is an effective way to improve our effectiveness in this critical skill.

After reading the book, my awareness of my own emotions has been heightened dramatically. I can almost feel the ZAP of thoughts going from the emotional side of my brain to the rational side. Oops, there goes one now!

Given that roughly 60% of performance is a function of Emotional Intelligence, we now have an easy and almost-free mechanism to improve our interpersonal skills. I hope you will go out and purchase this little book, particularly if you are a leader. For leaders, EQ is the most consistent way to improve performance and be more successful.