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The Dating Write-Up: Best Practices for Finding Love in B-School

In FRC and LCA, we have learned that despite a firm demonstrating outstanding profitability, a lack of robust controls and boundary systems can result in a company culture that undermines the entire business. It is imperative that the HBS dater consider how she or he can set up mechanisms that both encourage positive behavior in their dating life such as innovation, accountability, and decisiveness as well as boundary and control systems to inhibit behavior that is counterproductive, inconsistent, or even fraudulent. There are abundant opportunities for HBS daters to successfully find love while in Business School, and the following are strategies to make the pursuit that much more effective.

Create a mission statement: The best companies have mission statements that are well-known throughout the company, believed in by its employees, and practiced on a daily basis. Create a specific, well-thought-out mission statement, and post it somewhere where you can see it every day several times a day. I suggest your Blackberry or iPhone welcome screen. An example of an effective mission statement is: I will date a handsome, ambitious, and thoughtful man who cares about social issues and is crazy about me.

Create a list of measurable goals: Creating a list of dating goals that are measurable allows you to track your progress, analyze under what circumstances you experience more dating success, and gives you specific accomplishments that you can then try and beat. Thus, you are in a situation of competing with yourself rather than with other men or women. Examples of specific measurable dating goals are: Ask two women out on a date every week or Leave at least ten hours completely open every week to allow room for dates or relaxing with friends. In order for your goals to be maximally helpful, you should revisit them on a weekly basis to see how you are progressing. As necessary, adjust your goals to match your changing circumstances and ambitions.

Create a list of clear rules and expectations for yourself and your partners: The most effective rules serve as bright-line tests that keep you from having to mull over situations and wonder what to do. The time and energy saved on knowing exactly what to do frees you up for more innovative thinking and following through on other important objectives. An example of a dating rule you could create for yourself would be: Never cancel plans with my good friends for last-minute plans with a guy I am newly dating. An example of a rule you would apply to your dates would be No sex before x number of weeks of dating. Actually stating these rules out loud to your dates could prove to be quite awkward. Instead, make your rules known through your behavior. There are whole books written about the rules of dating, most notably the book The Rules. These and other books are great reads for anyone wondering what sorts of rules they may want to implement in their dating life.

Reward goal-congruent behavior: In corporate America, employees receive bonuses based on factors such as profitability targets and their role in developing future leaders of the company. Their hard work is recognized through monetary reward, public recognition, and/or promotions. If someone you are dating does something that you appreciate and want more of, reward them with something that matters to them. Examples of rewards are a physical affection, doing something helpful for them, verbally expressing how much they mean to you, giving them a gift, or spending more time with them. You may even “promote” someone from one of several women you are dating to your girlfriend. The book The Five Love Languages does an outstanding job of explaining how different people respond to different expressions of love. If you want the people you date to do more of what they do well, reward them and see how their behavior improves. Just remember to reward your dates with things that matter to them-not what would matter to you.

Discourage goal-incongruent behavior: In a business, this discouragement can take the form of a verbal warning, a demotion, temporary suspension, or being pushed out of the firm. If someone you are dating does something that is incongruent with the long-term success of the relationship, discourage the behavior in a way that is consistent and in proportion to the offense. For example, if a guy does not call you when he says he will to tell you about the specifics of your date, don’t make last-minute plans with him when he finally does call. Politely tell him you have already made other plans but are open to making plans for a future time. If your girlfriend is flirting with one of your guy friends, tell her that it bothers you and that you don’t feel comfortable dating someone who seems to be looking for the next best thing. The most extreme forms of goal incongruent behavior are emotional, verbal, or physical abuse. If someone you are dating exhibits this behavior, give him or her the pink slip immediately. Just remember that research has shown that employees respond more to systems that reward goal-congruent behavior rather than those that rely on punishing goal-incongruent behavior. In your dating life, focus on more “carrot” than “stick”.

Act with dignity and be transparent: Warren Buffett reminds us to do nothing that we would not want on the front page of the newspaper and read by everyone we know. In the same way, do not act toward your dates or tolerate behavior from those you date that you wouldn’t want all your friends and family to know about. I’m not talking about the creative ways you and your boyfriend keep things interesting in the bedroom. That’s private information that you should feel free to keep to yourself. I want you to imagine telling your mom about the dates you go on, and see if you would be proud to describe those dates. For example, would your mom be excited to hear the following: “Mom, I’m dating this really great guy. He only calls me when he’s drunk, and I always rush over to his dorm-using the tunnels of course. It’s cold out after all. I just know he’s really into me. He even used his Crimson Cash to pay for my hand-rolled sushi once. I think he’s The One.” It is important to be transparent about your intentions with those you date. You don’t have to tell a woman your goal is to marry no earlier than 35, but if she asks if you are dating other people, be honest and tell her so. People will appreciate and respect you for your honesty and you will end up with a reputation that allows you to be a strong player in the HBS dating world.

These are a just few ways that HBS daters can encourage goal-congruent behavior in their dating life. It’s important to remember that you can only control your own actions, but you can have great influence on the actions of others if you have a clear vision of your goals, and the way you plan to reach them.

AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHY
Kaneisha Grayson is a proud native of Austin, Texas. She is earning an MBA & MPA, and plans to one day work as a talk show host, self-help author, and filmmaker. She welcomes feedback and further ideas for lifestyle and dating articles at her HBS email address or the comment section on the online version of this article. Check out her blog The Dream Catcher at //kaneishagrayson.blogspot.com.

April 21, 2009
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