Justin Harris: How You Measure Success

Years ago I managed in a production and stats driven environment. We were always told to “manage to the behaviour”, yet numbers were still consistently and aggressively driven down the throats of both the managers and the employees. This created a rigid environment that was burdened with high turnover and disconnected employees.

I was a huge fan of the “behaviour” philosophy, even though we saw the opposite in practice. I made a commitment to myself and my team that regardless of what numbers I was asked to hit as a manager, I would never use stats as a sole indicator of my team’s commitment, effort and ability. I took those stats and used them to help identify the employee behaviours that needed the attention of my coaching staff. By focusing on the behaviours that drove the numbers, the numbers took care of themselves and my employees were happy, engaged and learning.

By working with employees (identifying their strengths and motivators) as opposed to working on employees (simply demanding and expecting results), they communicated with us, and gave management the critical information needed to help secure their buy-in and to help us to refine our coaching efforts. We learned that even when the job itself sucked, employees could actually enjoy themselves at work and be productive:

  • when they knew that development and support was available
  • when they were taught the “whys” and not just taught the process
  • when they were not subjected to a manager that transferred their pressures onto them
  • when they never saw their manager sweat…because they look to the manager to be calm in the midst of the craziness that surrounded them
  • when the manager’s vision for their team was clearly communicated to them

Success doesn’t always show up in reports, and all success can’t be quantified. There are times where we might hit a quota, but a five-point rating system on a review doesn’t fully express the overall impact of a team member. It is important as leaders to put less emphasis on things that fade, scoring higher and winning more awards, and more emphasis on consistent success from doing the right things and not sacrificing positive behaviours for statistics sake.

My challenge to every leader is to measure success not only by the numbers but by the environment of accomplishment they are able to create. I challenge leaders to measure success not only by how many “star” employees they have, but by the number of employees that progress in their organization from doing things the right way. Statistics and numbers fade, but leadership, decency and development will live on, and will impact the professional and personal lives of your teams far more than ratings will. There are real people behind those numbers, and keeping those people first will trickle down to new employees, which will help to build a culture of real success that isn’t easily measured.

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