SMART goals are dumb. That's the conclusion of a study by the Leadership IQ consultancy, which found that so-called SMART goals - goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive - don't correlate with success.
Instead, the study of 4,182 workers from 397 organizations found that the following eight factors in the questionnaire predicted whether somebody's goals would help them achieve great things:
I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.
I will have to learn new skills to achieve my assigned goals for this year.
My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.
I actively participated in creating my goals for this year.
I have access to any formal training that I will need to accomplish my goals.
My goals for this year will push me out of my comfort zone.
My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me (for example, customers or the community).
My goals are aligned with the organization's top priorities for this year.
Leadership IQ notes that at the core there is often a challenge: For people to achieve great things, their goals require them to learn new skills and leave their comfort zone. That's the opposite of the achievable, realistic approach called for by adherents of the SMART goals framework.
"The typical goal-setting processes companies have been using for decades are not helping employees achieve great things. And, in fact, the type of goal-setting we should be doing (assuming we actually want our employees to achieve great things) is pretty much the opposite of what organizations have been doing for the past few decades. If your people don't have to learn new skills and don't have to leave their comfort zone to achieve their goals, those goals probably won't drive greatness," the researchers note in the report on their website.
They state that goals also have to capture the imagination. They must leap off the paper, presented so vividly that staff can feel how great it will be to achieve them. "And statistically, to achieve greatness, a goal also has to be bigger than ourselves. We have to identify whose lives will be enriched by our goals. And those goals had better be absolutely necessary (and also aligned with our organization's top priorities) or they just aren't going to help employees achieve great things," they stress.
So forget SMART. Instead, they suggest you try HARD:
Heartfelt: My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me.
Animated: I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.
Required: My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.
Difficult: I will have to learn new skills and leave my comfort zone to achieve my assigned goals for this year.
Stop and think
Just as we learn to look both ways before we cross a street, consultant Michael Josephson says every decision must start with a stop - a forced moment of reflection to help us clarify our goal, evaluate the completeness and credibility of our information, and devise an alternate strategy, if necessary, to achieve the best possible result. Charactercounts.org
Customer isn't always right
The customer is always right - but only up to a point. The customer stops being right when he or she asks you to compromise your integrity or sacrifice your resources beyond a predetermined, acceptable level, says Success Made Simple author Erik Wesner. FastCompany.com
Spending time wisely
Want to be more effective? This week, try keeping track of how much time you spend dealing with each of these five items: fires that never had to get ignited; resources that are squandered; people who do their tasks wrong for days or months before anybody realizes; times you take on responsibilities that could be better delegated to someone else; and one-on-one conversations with direct reports, where you discuss the details of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. Then, in coming weeks, try to increase the time spent on that last item - the one-on-one conversations - and see if it spares you time wasted on the other four. RainmakerThinking.com
CEO succession planning
With the tenure of chief executive officers averaging four years, and the best succession-planning practices requiring three years to be effective, boards of directors must remember that they are always in CEO succession planning, says human resource specialist Kevin Cashman. Executive Excellence
Navigate from the left
Web users spend more than twice as much time looking at the left hand of the screen as the right - 69 per cent of viewing time compared with 31 per cent, according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen As a result, he suggests keeping navigation tools all the way to the left, the main content a bit further in, and the most important stuff showcased between one-third and halfway across the page, where most attention is focused. Useit.com
Forgotten Attachment Detector, an add-on for users of Outlook 2007 and 2010, will signal if you have indicated in an e-mail you are sending an attachment but don't. It can be downloaded for free at www.officelabs.com/projects/forgottenattachmentdetector. Howtogeek.com
Time Management: Three categories of work
If you're distressed about all the work you have to do - and the constant interruptions that keep you from being productive - then stop and ponder the three categories of work, organizing expert David Allen says.
Doing predefined work
This is what you would be doing all day if you had no input or interruptions of any sort. You would be working off an inventory of actions and projects that you started the day with, whether the phone calls you need to make or the documents you need to draft.
Doing work as it appears
This is work that arises when the phone rings and you spend 20 minutes talking to a customer, or your boss calls a half-hour meeting to update you on a new development. You are doing the work as it shows up to be done. "You are actually defining your work rapidly in this case, and choosing to do the new stuff instead of any of the predetermined activity," Mr. Allen states in his Productive Living newsletter.
Defining work to be done
This is processing your in-tray, e-mail, or meeting notes - taking in input and making decisions about what needs to be done about it. You may take some quick actions, and you will probably add more tasks to your inventory of defined work.
The mistake we make, he says, is to often consider items in the second category as a burden to endure and the third category as irrelevant activities separate from our real work. "I don't get it. It's all the work. Some is done when it appears, and some is done when you choose to do it," he notes. "And processing input is required to trust the inventory of predefined work."
The eternal dance of the workday, he says, is deciding how much of each type of work to do, and when.
Leadership: Insensitive CEOs
These days, emotionally intelligent leadership is considered the ideal - leaders who can empathize with and sensitively deal with others. But after British venture capitalist Jon Moulton listed insensitivity as one of his top character traits, Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway weighed in with a call for insensitive CEOs.
After all, she noted, faced with decisions that will hurt others, a sensitive boss may prevaricate while an insensitive boss will act quickly - and sleep well at night.
Insensitive people, she argues, are a lot simpler to deal with - usually very straightforward. "An insensitive boss can be told what his failures are without going into a blind funk. They don't take things personally. And because they are insensitive, they help me behave better. If I know I'm not going to be rewarded for being needy, I have no choice but to tone it down a bit," she writes.