“Measure what you treasure.”
“Inspect what you expect.”
You’ve heard those phrases before from speakers and consultant-guys like me. They make sense. As leaders we are accountable for the results produced, rather through direct effort or the efforts of others.
Unfortunately tracking results isn’t enough. I’ve learned that leadership lesson the hard way.
Recently I terminated an employee who seemed to be producing reasonable results. After her departure, I learned of the train wreck she had left behind: no records of unfinished tasks, needed follow-up or activities completed. How did she get by? The answer was coined by a colleague of mine: the squeaky wheel technique. Whatever or whoever created the most noise got her attention. Everything and everybody else was left on the back burner to simmer, in some cases, eternally.
Oddly enough, I’d been monitoring output and on the surface it seemed reasonable. But I was reminded that sometimes how you get results is as important as the results you get.
Some work habits are like a bad ponzi scheme: employees mortgage the future to pay for present results. They get behind or overwhelmed and do only those things that are obvious and necessary to placate those who manage them.
The only way you can detect such a potentially catastrophic work style is to ponder the process. Spend time looking not just at what is being done and achieved, give attention to how it is being done. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you receive resistance it might be defensiveness caused by the threat of poor work habits about to be uncovered.
Results are critical, but so, too, are the means of achieving those results. Measure what you treasure, but don’t forget to ponder the processes being used to achieve those results.