Getting Achievement Down To a Science
Readers have to respect a business book that begins by comparing Apple CEO Steve Jobs and a 3-year-old child. The comparison isn't intended in the least as a slight against Jobs. Author and leadership trainer Mark Murphy suggests that the process used by Jobs to inspire the creation of some of today's most influential technology uses the same elements of the brain as a 3-year-old attempting to get a cookie off a kitchen countertop.
He defines the goal-setting method in HARD Goals: The Secret to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Murphy suggests that anyone who picks up his book has achieved a level of success, even if it was just for a moment, and is looking to return to that peak. What marks great achievements in a person's life form the fabric of the type of goals Murphy refers to with the acronym HARD. The goals are Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult.
Murphy writes with the voice of an experienced coach. He understands his audience’s desire to read about ideas backed by research and case studies. However, he balances the science of goal-setting with personal anecdotes about his own journey through setting and achieving HARD goals. This can occasionally grate on readers who aren't interested in the details of Murphy's life and career.
Murphy's attempts at self-effacing humor mask a successful career as founder and CEO of Leadership IQ. His organization provided training for Microsoft, IBM, MasterCard and Merck, among others. The knowledge Murphy gained from seeing the inner workings of some of the top companies in a variety of fields gave him unique insight into goal-setting. What's more revealing is Murphy's examination of why companies and their workers don't achieve the goals they set for themselves.
HARD Goals teaches executives about the importance of tying performance goals directly to a group’s emotional hot buttons. A heartfelt goal is one that establishes a personal connection between the person and the goal that he or she attempts to achieve. Murphy’s method for getting readers to understand this connection is an example of his ability to interweave science and story. While some executives will prefer to read Murphy’s report on how Google applies the emotional connection to its corporate philosophy, other leaders may be more moved by the hypothetical of a worker "skipping into the office to create shareholder wealth." The latter showcases Murphy’s ability to disarm a reader's expectations with a touch of the absurd.
The structure of HARD Goals is similar to dozens of other books that attempt to spell out a system to change one’s behavior. Murphy devotes a chapter to each of the four qualifications for a HARD goal. Executives may want to keep pen and paper handy as Murphy covers a lot of ground in a compact set of pages. He concludes the book with a chapter on starting the process of achieving one’s HARD goals. Despite the shortness of this chapter, Murphy uses it to answer the most common question: How is it possible to achieve HARD goals in a business world where one's attention is divided every second of the day?
In some sections, Murphy anticipates the type of criticism executives would lob at his methods. He writes that creating HARD goals isn’t limited to dreams of personal betterment, such as quitting smoking or losing weight. There are definite business applications to the ideas HARD Goals describes. He never lets executives forget that behind every new Web innovation, technological development or social media site are people. The individuals that make up any company are capable of achieving the extraordinary if they are given goals with the qualities Murphy describes.
The HARD Goals discussion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators may lead some readers to make quick comparisons between Murphy's book and Daniel Pink’s classic Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink's book offers a more exploratory look and doesn’t jump to the hard sell of the specific method of goal achievement pitched by Murphy. For readers who are interested in learning more about the science of motivation, it may be best to think Pink. Murphy's work is reserved for those who want a by-the-numbers program for increasing their personal or professional achievement.