Smart Goal Setting

Featuring Pulitzer-prize winning
New York Times investigative reporter, Charles Duhigg.

  • - Hey everyone, welcome to The Secret Power of Setting SMART Goals. We're gonna get started here in just about a minute. We're gonna give a few more seconds to let the stragglers get in and settled, and then we'll be off and running. Once again for anyone who's just joining, we're waiting for the stragglers to come in, this is The Secret Power of Setting SMART Goals, so if that's what you're looking for, you're in the right place. We're gonna get going here in about 30 seconds. Okay, this is The Secret Power of Setting SMART Goals. My name is Kyle Jepson, I'm a professor at HubSpot Academy. I'm joined today by Charles Duhigg who is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times. Most of what we're talking about today comes from his bestselling book, Smarter Faster Better, but you may have also read The Power of Habit which is also excellent. I'm very happy to have Charles with us here today. This masterclass is presented by HubSpot Academy, the official training resource of HubSpot. If you're a HubSpot user, you can find HubSpot Academy and all of its courses in your HubSpot portal, but for anyone who is not a user yet and is interested in signing up, on the page here, the class page down below, we have some links for you, we'll also be sending some follow-up resources tomorrow afternoon. But without further ado, let's go ahead and get started. Charles, thanks so much for being here.

    - [Charles] Thanks for having me.

    - So your book talks a lot about a lot of different great things, but the one we've decided to start with today is this idea of SMART goals. Can you just give us a basic idea of what a SMART goal is?

    - Sure, so there's a basic science, and in Smarter Faster Better we actually have a whole chapter about this, about the science of goal-setting. And what we know is that there's basically kind of two types of goals that people need to really be successful, really be productive. And there's a kind of tension between that. The first is that we need what psychologists traditionally refer to as stretch goals. These big ambitions, sort of where we're moving towards. Because one of the key attributes of people who are more productive than others, is that they tend to do a better job at identifying what goal they ultimately want. They're working about the same amount as everyone else, they're just as busy and spend just as much time relaxing, but they're chasing better big goals, and as a result, they're more efficient because they know what they're going after. So everyone needs a stretch goal. You need to know that you wanna start a company, or that you wanna run that marathon. You need to have something that is a month or three months in front of you so that you know you're moving in the right direction. But the problem with having a stretch goal, this really big ambition, is that it makes it hard to decide what to do every single morning when you wake up. You can't say like, oh, right now I'm working on the marathon. That's just too big for you to get your arms around. You need to break it down into smaller pieces. And there's been a lot of science about what kind of breaking down activity, what kind of pieces are most effective at helping people motivate and helping them stay on task, and get the right things done. And that's where the science of SMART goals comes from. SMART goals is an acronym. It stands for a method for taking a big goal and breaking it into smaller pieces. It's just a series of questions you ask yourself. They start with S-M-A-R-T. So if I have a big goal, specifically, what do I wanna get done tomorrow in the first step towards that big goal, or the second step, that's S. How am I gonna measure whether I've been successful or not? That's M. Is it achievable, is it something that, A, I can actually get done, or am I setting a small goal for tomorrow morning that's just too big? That's A. R is realistic, what do I need around myself in order to make that goal happen? Do I need, for instance, to have some resources there? Do I need to close the door to my office? Do I need to turn off my email applications so that I'm not getting interrupted? Just think through a little bit exactly what makes it realistic that you'll get this small goal done, and then T, T is a timeline. Figure out ahead of time exactly how much time you're gonna spend on this thing, so then rather than being distracted by emails popping up or saying now I need to take a break, you know that you have two hours that you need to spend devoted on this and you've broken it up into 15-minute increments. S-M-A-R-T, it's just a mnemonic to help you take a big goal and come up with a plan on how you're going to start. Because what we know is that it's the starting that's hard, right? It only takes 60, 90 seconds to go through those S-M-A-R-T and figure out how to start a big goal. But once you know how to start, odds are that you will be much much more successful at actually getting that goal done, rather than simply diving in and saying okay, what do I do now?

    - Yeah, I love that, and I think that the combination of the SMART goal with the stretch goal is so insightful and important, 'cause I know in my own life and when I'm teaching people, it's easy to either have a big goal that nobody knows how to achieve, or a simple, small goal that doesn't really matter.

    - That's exactly right, and what we know from all the researches available to us is that it's the interplay between those two that genuinely make people productive and successful, right? People who do amazing things are people who have set big goals for themselves, but big goals, too much ambition can be overwhelming if you don't have a plan on how to start it. And so SMART goals, breaking it down through a system into something that will make it tangible, that's how you actually get started.

    - That's great, and so a lot of the folks joining this webinar today are either in marketing or sales, that's sort of the audience HubSpot caters to, and these are teams that tend to have big goals, tend to be driven towards results. Another section in your book talked about team dynamics and what it takes to make a successful team. Can you talk about that a bit?

    - Sure, absolutely, so in Smarter Faster Better there's a chapter about the science of teams, and it starts with a story, it was in the Times Magazine, we ran an excerpt from the New York Times Magazine about how five years ago Google actually decided to start this huge study to try and figure out how to build the perfect team. So for two years, spending millions of dollars, they collected data on almost every single team within the company, and initially what they wanted to figure out is how you choose people who are gonna work together really really well, right? Do you want maybe introverts working with extroverts, or do you want people who are friends away from the conference room so they all get along really well, or do you want people who are strangers so there's no social tensions between them? Do you want strong leaders, do you want weak leaders? They measured thousands of variables among their most successful teams and their least successful teams, and then they started looking for patterns because this is what Google does, right? They look for patterns. For two years they collected data and looked for patterns, and they couldn't find anything. They couldn't find anything that would tell them why some teams were more successful than others. They would have some teams that basically would have the exact same membership, and one of those teams would do great, and the other team with almost the same cast of characters would do terrible. So at some point they said look, we gotta take a break and approach this from another perspective. Rather than asking who should be on a team, let's start asking how teams interact. If the how of a team is more important than the who. So they started collecting more data and they started running more regressions and all of a sudden everything became clear. What they figured out was that the habits that a team has, the culture, the unconscious ways the team members treat each other, that's much much more important that who is on a team. And in particular, as they look at this, they found a number of habits, a number of what are known as group norms that were particularly important. But one of them was much more important than anything else. It was this thing known as psychological safety. Huge amount of data and research into psychological safety. One of my favorite stories and a story that we tell in Smarter Faster Better is about the making of Saturday Night Live, because when Saturday Night Live started in the 1970s, everyone basically thought it was gonna fail, right? And it should've failed. The idea that Lorne Michaels, the executive producer had, was to get a whole bunch of comedians, most of whom had at one point slept with each other and now kind of disliked each other, and who aren't really the most warm and cuddly people in the first place. He wanted to get a bunch of these comedians, put them in a room together, have them come up with sketches, and then tell them "If your sketch makes it on the air, "it means that we're cutting your sketch," right? He wanted to... Competition, and this is a recipe for disaster, right? There's no reason why a group of people who are already misanthropes should come together when they're all competing with each other. But Lorne Michaels, he did this really interesting thing. The way that Lorne Michaels runs meetings is unlike almost anything else I've ever seen, 'cause he does these two things. The first thing that he does is he forces everyone to speak in roughly equal proportion. So if you're sitting in a meeting with Lorne Michaels and you haven't said anything in the last five minutes and three other people have spoken, he will have a sheet of paper where he's checked off how many times you've talked, and he will stop the meeting and he will say "Jim, I haven't heard from you in five minutes, "tell me what you're thinking, "tell me what's inside your brain right now." He forces everyone to speak up, what psychologists refer to as equality in conversational turn-taking. But that's not the only thing Lorne Michaels does. The other thing that he does is he listens ostentatiously, so if you're in a meeting with Lorne Michaels and you tell him an idea, what he'll do is he'll echo that idea back to you, and say like "That's a great idea, "what I hear you saying is" and he'll repeat back what you just said. Or he makes this really kind of ostentatious display of picking up on non-verbal cues. So again, if somebody's sitting at the table and suddenly they scowl, he'll stop the meeting and he'll say "Ben, I see that you're scowling. "I'm kinda picking up that you don't like this idea. "Tell me what you're thinking right now." He demonstrates how he listens, how he picks up on non-verbal cues. And it turns out that these two things, equality in conversational turn-taking and ostentatious listening, these are the foundational building blocks of psychological safety. And so that's what Google started to do. They created all these training systems and modules for leaders to teach them when you're having a meeting, what you ought to do is you should force everyone to speak equally and you should listen ostentatiously, and this is harder than it sounds, because in a company like Google, you walk into a meeting, everyone flips up their computer, they start looking at their computer, they're taking notes, so they made a rule. During meetings, no one is allowed to have their computer open. You have to close it, because we think that you're gonna be able to ostentatiously listen better if you don't have something else to stare at. And that is why Google ended up figuring out how to build the perfect team. Not because they figured out which cast of characters is right, but they figured out how to foster psychological safety. And in the book I go into more details about how exactly we do that, but undergirding it is this idea that if you can create an environment where people feel like they can be vulnerable, where people feel like they can speak up, they have to speak up, and that they're being listened to, then that team is much more likely to gel and do something amazing.

    - That's awesome, and this is so counter-intuitive in a lot of ways to me, just because we expect that if you take all the best players and put them in a room together, you're gonna get awesome things. But what I learned reading the book from some of the studies you cite in there is that's not the case at all. The team norms and the way the leader runs the team matter so much more.

    - Yeah, no, that's exactly right. In fact there was an interesting experiment that was done where researchers took a bunch of people and put them on teams, and they would actually test their IQ and their professional achievements and things like that. What they found was that IQ really did not correlate with team success very much at all. So if you take a bunch of stars and you put them on a team together, the question is are they individual stars or are they people who became stars because they know how to work on teams? If they know how to work on teams, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're the all star, right? Someone who's just really good at listening and encouraging their colleagues to speak up, and as a result they look like a genius when it's all analyzed.

    - Yeah, I love that. For those of you who are watching, we do have a hashtag on twitter. Please chime in on #HubSpotMasterClass, we're monitoring that, if you have any questions send them our way and we'll be happy to address 'em. So Charles, you mentioned in Google people having to close their laptops, it makes me think of the section on focus. Can you talk a little bit about focus and how that works?

    - Sure, so one of the big questions in productivity is why are some people so much better at focusing than others, right? Why do some people seem to maintain their focus and not get distracted, not just by procrastination but by the things that, at first glance, seem like they should be things that should distract us. Some people, the most productive people, the most successful people, they seem to be able to choose what they ought to focus on better than everyone else and they seem to maintain that focus better than everyone else. And so when I started looking into this and trying to understand what do we know about the neurology and psychology of focus, I came across this really interesting story, and it was the story of Qantas Flight 32. So, Qantas Flight 32 is this plane that took off in 2010, headed from Singapore to Sydney, Australia, and when the plane first took off, it was like a picture-perfect beautiful day. It was an Airbus A380 which is one of the most complicated and sophisticated planes that's ever been made. And the plane takes off into the air, and it's flying to Singapore. Everything goes according to plan. And about 20 minutes into the flight, the captain and the co-pilot sitting in the cockpit, they hear this noise like thousands of marbles being thrown against the hull, the fuselage of the plane. Now, unbeknownst to them, what had just happened is this kind of freak accident. A fire broke out in one of the jet engines, and these are huge, huge jet engines, right, enormous. And this fire broke out at exactly the wrong place, which is the fire started right where one of the fan blades on the jet engine shaft attached to the shaft itself, and because it was spinning around so fast, when the fire broke out it caused this fan blade to detach, and the fan blade started shooting through the plane and ended up punching this enormous hole in one of the wings. There's actually a photo that someone on the plane that they eventually recovered, their cell phone. Someone took it out their window of this huge hole that just appeared through the wing. But what's really interesting is that this isn't actually the bad thing that happened on Qantas Flight 32. Because an Airbus A380, it's such a sophisticated plane, it can actually sustain an injury like that and continue flying for about nine hours without any problem. The bad thing that happened on Qantas Flight 32 is that when that fan blade detached from the shaft, it hit another fan blade, and it hit that other fan blade at exactly the angle of incidence that caused that second fan blade to explode into thousands of pieces, right? The odds of this happening were incredibly small, but it happened. And as those thousands of pieces of metal starting moving through the wing, it was like the shrapnel from bomb going off in there. The pieces of metal, they started cutting through electrical lines and hydraulics lines and fuel lines. When they eventually recovered the wing on the ground, someone said that it looked like someone had taken a machine gun and had sprayed the underside of the plane. So for the captain and his co-pilot sitting in the cockpit, for them, suddenly their dashboard lights up with all these alarms. It would actually later be ruled the worst midair mechanical disaster in modern aviation. 12 of the 14 systems that are needed to keep a massive jet aloft suddenly went offline within 30 seconds. But what's interesting is who is sitting in that cockpit. So the captain is this guy named Richard de Crespigny who'd been taught to fly by the Australian Air Force, and if anyone's an air force vet themselves or knows anyone who was taught to fly by the air force, what you know is that when you're taught to fly by any air force, they teach you a way of thinking, a set of mental habits that are known as situational awareness. Most people have probably heard this phrase, situation awareness, it actually comes from aviation. First is the ability to build mental models. The habit of building mental models, or put differently, getting into the habit of telling ourselves stories about what's occurring as it occurs in order to sharpen our focus, because one of the things that we know from study after study is that our brain learns what to focus on and how to pay attention by relying on the stories we tell ourselves about what's going on. So for instance, there was a really interesting study that was done on Fortune 500 executives that found that the most successful executives, they tended to have this habit they would go through every morning. Now, most of us when we are trying to think about our day, we kind of visualize our day a little bit, right? We're like oh, I have a meeting at 10 o'clock, I need to leave by 10:55 so I can make it to my 11 o'clock lunch. But the most successful executives, they would just visualize their day with a little bit more specificity. They would say something like okay, I have a meeting at 10 o'clock, and it's gonna start with Jim bringing up that dumb idea he always bring up, and then Suzy, Suzy's gonna disagree with him 'cause Suzy always disagrees with Jim. And then I'm gonna jump in with my idea and I'm gonna win the meeting because I did that. Put differently, it's not as if they were telling themselves a much more complicated story, but the most successful executives, the ones who got promoted the fastest, they were in the habit of telling themselves stories about their days that were just a little bit more detailed, because that extra detail, it somehow programed their brain to pay attention to what matters, to pick up on the things that really are important during that meeting and ignore the distractions that might occupy everyone else. And Richard de Crespigny, the guy who's flying Qantas Flight 32, he loves this stuff. He loves building mental models, he loves telling stories. In fact, just that morning, before they had even gotten on board Qantas Flight 32, they were in the shuttle from the hotel to the airport. And de Crespigny went through this routine that he went through before every single flight, which is that he asked his co-pilots to tell him stories about what they would do in case of an emergency. He would say okay, if engine two goes out, tell me what are the first words out of your mouth? Where are your eyes gonna go? What're you gonna do with your hands? He would drill them on this stuff. And if you listen to the cockpit recordings from the initial minutes of the emergency on Qantas Flight 32, right when the hole appears in that wing, what you hear is you hear all of these pilots speaking in short, calm sentences as if they were reading from a script. Nobody is panicked because they've actually practiced this before, they know exactly what to say. They have the mental models in their heads about how to react. And in 99% of cases, that would have saved everyone onboard. That is how a damaged plane gets landed safely. But in the case of Qantas Flight 32, there were so many things wrong with that plane. So many emergencies breaking out that there literally weren't enough scripts in anyone's heads, enough stories to accommodate everything that was going on. So as soon as they would fix one problem, five more problems would pop up. And then they would fix two of those and 15 new problems appear. They literally couldn't keep track of everything that was going on, so after a couple of minutes, about 15 minutes into this emergency, Richard de Crespigny, the captain of the plane, he does this incredibly interesting thing. He takes his hands off of the controls. He puts them in his lap, and he closes his eyes. Now, the reason he did this is because he felt himself getting drawn into what's known as a cognitive tunnel. And we've all experienced a cognitive tunnel, a cognitive tunnel is what happens when you're driving down the freeway and you're going under the speed limit, and suddenly you see a cop car out of the corner of your eye and you slam on the brakes, or when you're at home and you're making dinner and you're talking to the kids and you're trying to get everyone ready for bed and your boss sends you a text and you pick up your phone and you hit reply and you type a reply and then you hit send, and then immediately afterwards you think I kinda wish I'd waited to hit send and taken an extra five minutes to think about what I really wanted to say. A cognitive tunnel is what happens when our brain feels overloaded. It tends to latch onto the most obvious stimuli and simply react to it. But for Richard de Crespigny, that's a disaster, because he feels himself sitting in the pilot's chair, he sees all these alarms, he's reacting to computer prompt after computer prompt, and he stops making decisions, he just starts reacting. And he feels like this is dangerous, so he takes his hands off the controls, he closes his eyes, and he thinks to himself and he says look, I've been trying to tell myself a story about this Airbus A380, I've been trying to envision where the fuel lines work and where they're busted, where the hydraulics are operating and where the hydraulic fluid is leaking. It's overwhelming, I just can't handle that much. I need a different story in my head, I need something else that will make me feel like I'm in charge. So at that moment he decides to start imagining that Airbus A380 as the plane he learned to fly on, as a Cessna. Now if anyone watching this has ever been on a Cessna, you know that a Cessna has nothing in common with an Airbus A380. It's like comparing a bicycle and a Maserati. But what a Cessna has, this small little almost hobbyist plane that, you know, 13-year-olds learn to fly on, what a Cessna has is the basics of flight, which is it has the ability to go up and down in the air, it has a navigation system, and it has landing gear. And basically if you have that, you've got an airplane. So de Crespigny, he's sitting there and he says I'm gonna start pretending that I'm flying a Cessna, and by now they've managed to turn the plane around and they're headed back to the Singapore airport, and they can see the runway approaching. And as they get closer and closer to the runway, this alarm goes off inside the cockpit that's known as a squealer. Now, a squealer is hopefully an alarm that no one watching this has ever heard. It's an alarm that was invented by NASA that is so loud and so annoying that it's impossible to ignore it. It can actually revive pilots who are under unconsciousness. And as they're approaching the runway, because they're approaching with such a high rate of speed, the squealer goes off in the cockpit. And de Crespigny turns to his colleagues and he says look, I know the squealer is going off, I know it's designed so you can't ignore it, but what I think we should do is just ignore it, because in my head I'm flying a Cessna, and they don't even bother to install squealers on Cessnas. It's like, too junior a plane. So at this point his co-pilots think he's crazy, but they say okay, you're the captain, we'll do exactly what you want. They're getting closer and closer to the runway. They touch down, and the wheels hold up, they don't explode on contact. And as they're zooming down the runway, de Crespigny has to make this decision, how is he gonna brake? In his head, he's flying a Cessna, so he decides to brake the same way he would brake a Cessna, which is if you're in a Cessna, excuse me, in an emergency situation, what you do is you just hold the brake pedal down as hard as you can, and then basically just hold on for your life, so that's what he does. In this huge Airbus A380, he presses the brake pedal down and he just keeps it pressed down to the ground. And they're zooming down the runway, they can actually see around the runway that there's these sand dunes, and if they hit those sand dunes with too much speed the plane will literally flip over and kill everyone onboard. And they're zooming down the runway and de Crespigny's pushing down on the brake, he's flying the Cessna in his head, they can hear the metal of the plane groaning as it's trying to give off all of the speed, and they get closer and closer to the end of the runway and with these sand dunes, and as they get closer and closer the plane's going slower and slower, and it eventually comes to a stop with 100 meters to spare. 48 minutes later, all 469 people onboard that plane all walked off without one injury. Now they have tried to recreate this landing over 100 times in simulators. They've had some of the best pilots trying to land it. No one had ever landed that plane without killing everyone onboard. And if you talk to Richard de Crespigny and you ask him and I've talked to him half a dozen times why he was able to do that, he'll tell you that he doesn't actually know. Maybe he just got lucky. Maybe the plane wasn't as damaged as the computer said it was. Maybe thinking about the plane as a Cessna was exactly the wrong thing to do. But what he will tell you is this, is that the most important thing was for him to focus on what matters most. The most dangerous thing would be to stop making choices and simply start reacting to everything around him. And that when he decided to change the story in his head, when he decided to change the mental model from an Airbus A380 to a Cessna, it put him back in charge. Simply saying I'm gonna tell myself a story and I'm gonna choose the story that's in my head, that allows us to focus better. That puts us in control. And that is the key to why some people are able to focus better than everyone else, because they're there in the habit of telling themselves a story about what's going on as it occurs, and that means rather than being in a cognitive tunnel, rather than just reacting, they are making choices.

    - I love that story so much. I think that's the third time I've heard you tell it and I read it in the book and I read it out loud from the book to my wife, and I just, every time, that may be the best thing that's ever happened. So sort of lacing these things together before we move onto the next point, I'm just kinda spitballing here but it seems like in the context of a plane, if your stretch goal is to get from Singapore to Sydney, you have SMART goals along the way like taking off, and like, you know, delivering drinks to people or whatever the case may be. And I think as organizations and as teams have their stretch goals and their SMART goals and they're operating, the danger of getting in these cognitive tunnels where you're focused on this is what we do because this is just what we do, and an inability to adapt is potentially one of the most deadly things that could happen to an individual or an organization.

    - Oh, absolutely, and in fact it's interesting that you bring up SMART and airplanes, because one of the things that's transformed modern aviation is the use of checklists, and actually some of the checklists are literally SMART, it says S-M-A-R-T, you know, there's a guy named Atul Gawande who wrote a book called The Checklist Manifesto, and a lot of that book comes from aviation because we've made aviation so much safer by instituting the checklists. Same thing that's true of hospitals and operating rooms, the checklist has really transformed how people are able to pay attention to the details. Rather than relying on their memory, they have something there to prompt them, and that's really all that SMART goals are, right? It's a checklist to get you to think about the things that are important and sort of just quickly make some choices about them before you start. If you go into a cockpit and you ask to look at their checklists, you will literally see checklists that say S-M-A-R-T on them, because that's how you take a big goal like navigating almost 500 people from Singapore to Sydney, and you break it into a series of steps that feels really manageable.

    - That's great, thank you. So with all of that in place, another key point you hit on in the book is motivation, and just getting things done. And I especially like in the appendix in the end where you talk about how, I had all this research and I needed to write a book and it was really hard. Can you talk about motivation and how people can get themselves moving?

    - Sure, absolutely. So we know a lot about motivation, and in Smarter Faster Better there's a whole chapter about motivation, and part of it talks about how marine corp basic training has been revolutionized, because for a long time, you know, I think when most people think about the marine corps and boot camp, they imagine drill sergeants yelling at these recruits and you just follow orders and learn discipline, and that's part of it, that's sort of a holdover from the olden days. But nowadays, boot camp has actually been transformed. What boot camp does is it teaches, it forces recruits into a habit of making choices, because one of the things that we know is that when you feel in control, it is much much easier to motivate. And the key to feeling like you're in control is to make a decision, to have a system for making a decision. So one of the big ways to remember this is that if you change a chore into a choice, you're much more likely to motivate yourself. Really important, and actually one of my favorite examples of this comes from Starbucks, and there's a couple of videos I could show you. So a few years ago, Starbucks, and I actually talk about this in The Power of Habit. A few years ago, Starbucks had this basic problem which is what Starbucks actually sells is customer service, right? When you walk into a Starbucks you know that there's gonna be soft music and wood paneling and there's gonna be some barista, and they're gonna ask your name and they're gonna write it in big cursive letters on your cup. Being able to charge, you know, $4.50 for a latte that costs them about $0.13 to make, is because they know that if they deliver customer service, you're gonna pay more. The challenge for Starbucks though is that most of their employees are like, 19 years old. In fact, that's the average age of a Starbucks employee, 19. And the tough thing about 19-year-olds is that they sometimes act like 19-year-olds. When you're 19 years old, you tend to not have the most willpower, you do stupid things. And this particularly became an issue for Starbucks as social media took off, and I'm gonna show you one of my favorite videos of this. Let me go ahead and open this up. So before you watch this, imagine for a minute that you're sitting at home, and let's say you oversee Starbucks's advertising. And you come home from a long day and you kick up your heels and you turn on the TV, and this is what you see appear.

    - She was a loyal customer of Starbucks, loved the coffee, loved the service, but that changed a few weeks ago. This native New Yorker got steamed not by what was inside her cup, but something written on the outside. That's when she called Nina Pineda and ordered a special brew of fully caffeinated 7 On Your Side.

    - [Reporter] And then when you looked at it, what'd you think?

    - I was shocked I didn't understand why, why would they do that? [Reporter] Vicki Reveron is talking about this Starbucks. The side, the Starbucks employee wrote what she ordered, a caramel frappuccino. But instead of scrawling her name on the side, she says he wrote the B word.

    - It says My name is not, it's Vicki.

    - So I love this video because it illustrates exactly how dangerous it is to have anything bad happen in one of your companies. And social media sort of explodes the opportunity for something to go awry. And so Howard Schultz, the head of Starbucks, he actually starts an investigation to try and figure out why this happened. And what he discovers is that the kid who had helped Vicki that day, this kid was a 19-year-old who had been working for Starbucks for nine months and had never had any problems, spotless employment record. But the night before Vicki comes in, this kid gets into a fight with his mom. He ends up sleeping for about two hours. He goes into work the next day all wound up and exhausted. He's in hour seven and a 1/2 of an eight-hour shift, and that's when Vicki comes in. And this kid makes a terrible choice. And I think Vicki was a little bit bossy with him maybe, but this kid decides to write a bad word on a cup, and it's disastrous. And for Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, and for everyone inside Starbucks, they started trying to figure out how do we stop this from happening? We need all of our employees to have great customer service. 'Cause it's not just this one instance, this has actually happened in other stores in different ways, they kept on having all of these problems. So they started saying look, what can we learn about willpower, about how to make someone feel like they can motivate themselves to do a great... They start looking at research, and what they learned is that there's actually a lot of really interesting research about willpower. Most people who are watching, they're probably familiar with something called the marshmallow experiment. The marshmallow experiment was the foundational study in willpower, and it was done in the late 1960s when a guy named Walter Mischel, he was a researcher at Stanford, he took his daughter who was four years old at the time and a bunch of her preschool classmates, and he would put them in a room one by one and he would put a marshmallow in front of them and he would say to each of them, okay look, I'm gonna make you a deal. If you want, you can eat that marshmallow, but I'm gonna leave the room and when I come back, if the marshmallow is still there, then I will give you a second marshmallow. They've actually repeated this experiment a number of times. Let me show you, I think I have some of the tape here. Let me show you what it looks like when you put a marshmallow in front of a four-year-old. Hold on just one second, see if I can find it.

    - [Woman] I'm gonna go to eat something and then I'll come back.

    - [Child] It smells yummy. It smells really good.

    - [Woman] Alright, it's up to you, you can have it now or you can wait, okay?

    - [Charles] So only one of those kids actually managed to go the whole 10 minutes waiting for the marshmallow, let me show you which one.

    - [Woman] How'd you do? Did you do good, you did? You wanted to eat it, didn't you? Yeah, so I told you I'd give you another one. Okay, now you can have both.

    - I love that kid. So what's interesting is that Mischel, the researcher, he does this experiment, and he finds that about 40% of the preschoolers, they could resist the marshmallow. So he publishes his results. Basically nobody pays any attention, it's like a totally ignored study. But then a couple of years later his daughter now is in fourth grade, and he's at dinner with her and he's struggling to make conversation. So he's asking her about her friends and eventually she starts talking, she starts saying you know, like, oh Jimmy does well in class but Suzy keeps on getting into trouble, and as he's listening he realizes because he had tested all of her classmates all those years ago, the friends that she says are doing well in school, they're the same kids who had managed to resist the marshmallows. So he goes and he tracks 'em all down. He tracks 'em down in middle school, he tracks 'em down in high school, he follows them in college, after college, it's this huge longitudinal study. And what he finds is that at every stage, the kids who had managed to resist the marshmallow, they do better than their peers. They get better grades, they get their homework on time more often, they're more popular in high school, not because they're good at sports or prettier, they're just better at being friends. They get into better colleges, they get higher-paying jobs, they get married earlier and stay married longer than everyone else, and the other thing that Mischel figures out is that you can teach people willpower. You can teach them how to take control. You can teach them a habit of willpower. And so for Howard Schultz and his colleagues at Starbucks, this is fantastic, this is exactly what they wanted to hear. They wanna teach their employees willpower. And so they start talking to all these researchers and they redesigned all of their training methods, and what they do is they start teaching people willpower habits, so for instance, in your first week at work in Starbucks, your manager will sit down with you and they'll teach you what's know as the LATTE habit. What they'll say is okay, look, if a customer comes in and they're really angry, you got their order wrong and they're just being a jerk, screaming at you, then what you should do is you should LATTE them. And what that means is that you should listen complaint, you should acknowledge their complaint, you should thank them for complaining, you should take care of their complaint by giving them a free cup of coffee or anything else they want, and then you should explain why this will never happen again. And it's easy to remember 'cause it spells L-A-T-T-E, just like SMART goals, it's just a mnemonic, and it's a dumb mnemonic 'cause you work in a coffee shop so LATTE is easier to remember. But the reason why this is really powerful, the reason why people do this, why it works, is because of the reward that it gives you. Because if you're 19 years old and you've had a fight with your mom and you're exhausted and someone comes in and they're kind of rude to you, or there's some i-banker screaming at you because you gave them the wrong cup of coffee or something, your instinct is to run away or fight back, and so you do something stupid like write a bad word on a customer's cup. But now Starbucks has told you exactly what to do, you LATTE them. And when Starbucks started doing research with its employees and after they taught them the LATTE method, they found that they would say things like oh yeah, I LATTE my mom all the time, or I LATTE my friends when they get mad at me. What Starbucks is actually doing is teaching them life skills, and this is how it gets back to motivation. It's because when Starbucks was trying to figure out why these worked, what they discovered is that if you give a 19-year-old a technique like LATTE, it makes them feel like they're in control. It makes them feel like they can handle a scary situation. It's that same basic lesson of boot camp, teaching people to look at chores and find a choice within it. If you can find something that makes you feel like you're in control of the situation, you're gonna have an easier time motivating. We know this neurologically, and so if you're someone who's struggling with procrastination, or there's some task that you have to do and you don't wanna do it, and you're having trouble starting, you're having trouble motivating for it, find some choice you can make. Find something that makes you feel like you're in control. Some stupid choice, if you're dealing with emails that you don't wanna answer, just start making choices. Say I'm gonna answer this email first. This guy asked me if I have time for lunch. I'm gonna say yes but I wanna go eat Indian food. Find whatever choice you can, because that choice, it is going to trigger the part of your brain where motivation resides, and it's going to make it easier to motivate yourself. If you can turn a chore into a choice, you're gonna get it done much faster and more easily.

    - Great, thank you. We're gonna start taking questions here pretty quick, I've already had a couple come through, but before we open it up to a Q and A, Charles, any last thoughts you wanna share?

    - No, no, I'll go look on Twitter with you at what's coming in.

    - Alright, the first one I see here, this goes back to what we were talking about earlier with teams. It says "Do you have any recommendations on best times, "days, frequencies for teams to have meetings?"

    - No, not really, because I mean, the research that there is, nothing. It depends on the group, right? So for a long time there was a lot of interest in like, does it matter if you're a virtual team or if you're in person with each other, and researchers spent a lot of time and money looking at those questions, and what they discovered was it just doesn't matter. What matters much much more is how team members treat each other. And that's what's really critical, is do you have these group norms, these habits where people feel like they can speak up and they're listened to, where they feel like I can say something in front of you that's not gonna be held against you in the future. There was actually five things, so psychological safety was the most important thing that people found, but they found four other things, and here, I'll look them up really quickly so you can see them. The point is it's not about these small little tactical things, it's not about what time of day you meet. It's about, rather, instead, how you work together. Here, let me just share this with you if I can figure out how to do this. Sorry, hold on one second. What matters is the norms, that's what's important. Hold on, I'm gonna show you the image. So these are the five things that Google found to be most important. At the top there's psychological safety, and that's about equality in conversational turn-taking and ostentatious listening. Then these other four things, they're actually less important than psychological safety, but they are other habits that makes a team work, and this is according to the data. You know, dependability. When we set due dates, do people actually follow through on them? If I give you an assignment, do I know that you're gonna do it? Structure and clarity, we wanna know what our goal as a group is, but equally important, you wanna know what each member's role is, why I'm part of this team and what I'm supposed to be doing, meaning it's important that the project that we're working on, this team's purpose, it's something that I believe in. Not just like, this is something that's going to help us hit our Q3 numbers, although that might be meaningful to some people. More importantly, does this have a deeper meaning? Is this important to the company? Is there some value with the team and bodies, and finally impact. People need to believe that the work that they're doing will matter to the company as a whole. I'm gonna take this off. If you get these five things, you basically are gonna have a team that works. It doesn't matter what time of day you meet, it doesn't matter what kind of room you meet in. And focusing on those things is a misapplication of what really matters. What matters are these things, the norms of how people treat each other and how they communicate and decide to make decisions. That determines whether a team works or fails.

    - Yeah, so that makes me think, 'cause the question asked about days, times and frequencies for meetings, I think those things only matter in as much as they help these good norms. Like, if people are less likely to be nice and to listen and stuff at a morning meeting, or if you're meeting so frequently people are just exhausted with it, you need to make sure you're supporting the good norms with the ways of the meetings.

    - Yeah, absolutely, and I think you need an environment where if you have equality in conversational turn-taking and ostentatious listening, people are gonna let you know if you're meeting too frequently or you're having each of your meeting at like eight p.m., people will feel comfortable speaking up and saying like, I've got kids, I can't do this, but that's the point, is that there no special answer. There's a method for making sure that you're choosing the right frequency and setting for your members.

    - Yeah, here I'm seeing a few other questions here. I like this one, "How can we resist the marshmallows of life "if you're already into the tunnel of cognition?"

    - In a cognitive tunnel? Well, the first thing is to pull yourself out of that cognitive tunnel, right? A cognitive tunnel is not something that happens without permission, it happens because we're not on guard for it. And if we're in the habit of building these mental models, it's much easier to guard against that cognitive tunnel. So, for instance, every morning I go through the same ritual and it takes, like, 45 seconds. I literally just try and envision my day hour by hour, and I just decide on what's the most important thing, like if I was telling myself a story at the end of the day, how do I want that story to go? So from nine to 10 o'clock, what's the most important thing I wanna get done? How's that gonna roll out? Usually I have a to-do list where I've written my stretch goal for this week and this month, but then I also break it down in S-M-A-R-T, so I know exactly how I'm gonna start on the three things I wanna get done today. That's the point, the SMART goals are basically a system for telling yourself a story about how you want things to unfold. If you're in a cognitive tunnel, the key is to take your hands off the controllers and close your eyes, and figure out what story you want to tell yourself about how you want your day to unfold. That's how you take control.

    - Great, another question here, "How can we get marketing and sales teams "to feel like they're part of the same team, "to be vulnerable with each other?"

    - That's a great question, 'cause marketing and sales, every single company deals with this tension between marketing and sales. And I think the key is there is no hack. You can't trick people into feeling vulnerable with each other. All that you can do is you can create an environment where people are encouraged to speak up and say how they're feeling, and then other people show that they're actually listening to that. I mean, imagine for a minute if you were to take marketing and sales and put them in a room together. The biggest complaint, probably, is that both of them would say I feel like you're not listening to me, I've got this problem and I'm trying to solve it and you keep on screwing up my solution. And then the other side says no no, I've got this problem and you keep on screwing with my solution. You have to create an environment where each side says I hear what you're saying, you're telling me this, now let me build on that by telling you what I'm feeling. Often there is no magic wand for resolving tensions within organizations, but there is a method for airing those tensions and trying to get as close as you can to a solution. And at the core of that is coming up with systems where people feel like they're really speaking up, like they have to speak up, they have to say what's most important to them, and they feel like everyone else is genuinely listening. If you have that, then people are on the same side of the table, they're working together to solve a problem, instead of just shouting at each other or feeling like they don't get a chance to shout at all.

    - I love that. I don't understand this next question, hopefully it means something to you. "Have you studied Pomodoro Technique in SMART goals?"

    - Yeah, so the Pomodoro Technique. Yeah, so the Pomodoro Technique is great, right? For the people who don't know, the Pomodoro Technique is where you set a little timer, I think there was actually a timer named Pomodoro that came with spaghetti sauce or something like that, Pomodoro spaghetti sauce. And you could set the timer for like five minutes, that's why it's called the Pomodoro Technique, I think, I haven't verified that. But the idea is that basically you set a time limit for yourself, and you have to work for that five minutes and then you get to take a break at the end of the five minutes, and sometimes it's easier when there's some type of external pressure, what's often referred to in psychology as a commitment device, that it helps people overcome the urge to procrastinate. That's great, if that works for you then you should absolutely do that. That's also why SMART goals work, it's a commitment device. It's just a way of forcing yourself to break a big plan into smaller pieces and start. All of those commitment devices are effective for many people, and what you should do is you should experiment with different ones to see which one works for you. And the key here is to actually pay attention to what works for you. There's some people for whom SMART goals is not the answer. There's a lot of people for whom it is. There's some people for whom Pomodoro works like magic. There's a lot of people for whom it doesn't. None of us know what's gonna work for us until we try them, and so in Smarter Faster Better that's actually what this is about, is it's about trying to run experiments in your own life and then, and this is the most important part, paying attention to the data that comes out of those experiments. 'Cause what often happens is that we start using SMART goals and they work for a little while and then we just kind of trail off and we don't pay any attention to what works or why it works, and then we fall back into old patterns. People who are successful, people who are productive, they are people who see all of their choices as experiments, because every choice you make is an experiment. And some experiments fail, that's the whole point of running experiments. If every experiment succeeded then it's not a good experiment, it's not a real laboratory. You're supposed to do some things that succeed and some things that fail, but most importantly you're supposed to pay attention to why they succeed or why they fail or which ones are effective and which ones are ineffective. And then you're supposed to take that data and use it somehow, that's what matters.

    - Awesome. Going back to focus, "What are your suggestions "for all the beeping and interruptions "from modern technology that can disrupt focus?"

    - So my first suggestion is to turn them off. And sometimes that's not realistic, but if possible you should turn them off. But the other thing is to understand that our brain has this amazing ability to actually learn to ignore those things if we have these mental models. So here's a great example. Back around the 1920s when cars first started, I guess maybe it was more like 1910s, when cars first started becoming popular in New York City, the legislator passed a law that said that you are not allowed to speak and cross the road at the same time. And the reason why is because they were afraid that if people were talking, that they would become distracted and they wouldn't notice if a car's approaching and they get hit by a car. And today we laugh at that, but actually they were totally right. At that time, people were so unpracticed at noticing vehicles that it was actually very dangerous to have everyone talking to their companion and crossing the street at the same time. Now, of course today all of us can do that, there's no problem. We have learned how to manage the distractions of conversation when we're crossing the road, so it's not like we have to stop the conversation. We're able to continue talking and then look both ways. It's a habit that we've learned. The reason why is because as you grow up in today's modern world, you learn kind of a story in your head about how streets work. You know that you have to look both ways. Probably your mom or your dad told you, and I do this with my kids, look both ways before you cross the street. They repeat it again and again and again until it becomes this little mental model that you automatically have, that you check every single time you cross the street. And this is kinda the point, is that if the beeps and the interruptions, if they're really bothering you, then first of all try and turn them off. Try and pass the law that says you can't cross the street and talk at the same time. But if that's not realistic, then work on that mental model, because that mental model's gonna make it much easier for you to ignore the distractions or manage the distractions or not even see them as distractions anymore. It's gonna teach your brain how to accommodate all of the noise in the environment and to focus on what really matters.

    - Great, so this one goes back to psychological safety. "How about people who feel shy, "even scared to speak in a group?"

    - That's a really good question, and for someone like that, there's this really interesting research about introverts, Susan Cain wrote this book called Quiet. She has a whole website called The Quiet Revolution to talk about how introverts can bring their best selves to work and be successful. And so I'd really recommend you go listen to that, but I think the other thing is that it really comes down to the leader. So it's not just your responsibility to talk up in a meeting. It is some of your responsibility, but it's also the responsibility of whoever is leading that team to talk up, to find an opportunity to help you talk up, to find the right environment to do so. And so in additions to introverts should read Quiet, leaders should read Quiet 'cause there's a lot in there about how to help introverts be their best selves, even if you're not an introvert yourself. And a lot of that has to do with figuring out when do you feel comfortable speaking. Because we know that extroverts like to think out loud. Introverts, and this is a gross generalization so it's not true across the board, but introverts oftentimes like to figure out what they want to say before they say it, which is a pretty good thing. So how do you create an environment as a leader of a team that allows people to succeed by encouraging them to speak in a way that is comfortable to them?

    - Got it. We've got about five minutes left here. Another question, "So what's the best way "to practice LATTEing people to change a chore into a choice?"

    - So just to be clear, LATTE is actually a little bit different than changing a chore into a choice, although it's an example, LATTE is an example of that because dealing with an angry customer is kind of a chore, but you choose to do this five things. You're putting yourself back in charge. So I think the thing is that if you have a chore in front of you, figure out some choice. So for me, it's emails. I despise replying to emails, it's just boring and I don't care about it and it's just something I have to do. So this is how I do all my emails. I'll set down at like, six o'clock at night or after the kids have gone to bed. I'll identify all the emails I need to reply to, and I'll hit R-R-R-R-R, so that my screen is filled with all these replies. And then what I do is I go in each email, and as fast as I can, I just find some choice to make. So if someone's like hey, do you wanna have lunch, I just type yes, Indian food. Or if someone's like hey, can you come to this meeting at 3:30, I'll type yes, but I can only stay for 15 minutes. That's literally all I type, but I don't hit send 'cause it'd be rude to send something back like that. So what I do is I fill up all the emails with some choice that I've made, I just assert myself. And sometimes the choices are small and sometimes they're stupid. Sometimes it's not even the choice that I really wanna make, but I just make a choice as fast as I can. I force myself to make a choice. Then I go back through all the emails and I type in all the pleasantries, like hey Jim, thanks for your note. Yes, we can go to lunch together, I'd like to eat Indian food, there's a nice restaurant over on 39th, Charles. I fill out the rest of the email, and then I usually kind of decide that choice that I made, that was a dumb choice, I wanna make a different choice. But the point is it's so trying to get through all these emails, it takes like 20 minutes whereas normally it would've taken an entire hour and I would've hated it. It feels really empowering, 'cause I'm in charge, I'm making choices, I took a chore and I transformed it into a choice. Another great example from the marine corp is you oftentimes have to clean your own barracks. And so what they teach all these recruits to do is when you start cleaning, make a choice about where you want to start cleaning based on what you prefer. So don't start sweeping in the corner just because everyone sweeps in the corner, go start in the middle of the room if you want, or start by making beds, or decide that you're gonna wash only the bottom of the mirrors at first. Just make some dumb choice, make yourself feel like you're in charge. Turn this chore into a choice somehow, and it's gonna be much much easier to get it done.

    - I loved in the book the stories you told about the people in the retirement homes rebelling, like refusing food and rearranging furniture.

    - That's a great example, so one of the things that they found is that people who tend to do best in nursing homes are what they refer to as subversives, because most people, they move into a nursing home and their health declines precipitously, because a nursing home is a really controlled environment. You don't get to make that many choices. So the subversives, what they do is they just create choices for themselves, and there was this one guy that they interviewed who loved chocolate cake, but he said he'd go into the cafeteria each night and sit with his friends, and he would take the meal that he was served, 'cause you didn't get to choose what you wanted to eat, they just served you a meal, and he would trade his chocolate cake for other desserts. And they asked him why are you doing this, you love chocolate cake, and he said "Because I would rather eat a meal of my own design "than something that's delicious but is forced on me." That's why this guy thrived inside a nursing home. He was able to motivate to go work out, to follow his doctor's orders, to make new friends, this guy had lived something like another 18 years in a nursing home, and the reason why is because he made choices, he found choices for himself. We should all be subversives. We should all figure out how to try and undermine the chores of life.

    - That's a great point to leave off on. We're out of time here, Charles, thank you again so much for doing this.

    - Thanks for having me.

    - And for everyone else, the couple of different books, The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better, be sure to check them both out, they're delightful, and as I mentioned at the beginning, my team will be sending out to everyone who attended some follow-up resources that should be coming out some time tomorrow. So, everyone have a great day, and see you again next time.
  • Kyle Jepson

    Kyle Jepson

    Inbound Sales Professor, HubSpot Academy
  • Charles Duhigg

    Charles Duhigg

    Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times Investigative Reporter