Stop Measuring And Start Leading


Liz Ryan, Contributor

December 14, 2015

Leadership is a not a static state. It is not a condition or a way of being. It is inextricably tied to a mission or a big goal.

You can’t just lead a team. The notion of leadership makes no sense outside of a journey from some Point A to Point B.

You have to have a mission or there’s nothing to lead people toward. You have to work toward something compelling and inspiring – a mission that people can get excited about.

Think back to every ambitious undertaking humans have ever taken on. In every case there was a mission that spoke to people who joined in to achieve the mission. 

The mission drove them forward. Their trust in one another was the glue that allowed them to keep going and keep experimenting.

They were connected to their own power sources and to one another, and their collective energy made them successful. 

People exalted by a mission can’t be motivated by carrots and sticks. They can’t be managed by layers of rules and policies.

Smart and creative people will tune out or just quit when you take the art and community out of their jobs. How could we blame them?

We are living in the Knowledge Economy now, and Machine Age thinking doesn’t work anymore. Mad Men-era policies are inappropriate. They insult and diminish the contributions of the talented people who have assembled to bring your team’s mission to life.

We have to lead differently now. For starters, we have to overcome our addiction to measurement — particularly the measurement and rating of individual employees - to tap the power that a Human Workplace culture can give us.

The hardest part of breaking out of any routine is taking the first step toward change.

The first step is to see how our traditional workplace systems are hurting us. You can see the cost of old-school, fearful management practices in turnover, apathy and missed goals. You’ll feel it in the air and hear about it from supervisors who can’t understand why their employees don’t try harder.

The answer is obvious. People work harder for things they care about than goals someone has shoved down their throat. Fear as a motivator in the form of “Hit your marks, or else!” gets you grudging compliance, at best.

Trust gets you innovation and earth-shaking, great ideas from people who are operating at their highest setting (called “passion”).

Sometimes we have to get more than one nudge from Mother Nature to get her signals clearly.

Management teams all over the world are experiencing the same quakes and tremors as the old working world gives way to a new one. We all have to learn how to step away from the oversight-heavy, factory-oriented management model toward a new model based on trust and possibility.

We won’t tap the collective brain and heart energy of the brilliant people around us by remaining stuck in an old, crusty management mindset.

Supervision is slow and expensive. Its day is done. We are learning to stop counting employees’ keystrokes and creating an environment ripe for innovation and collaboration, instead.

In the new-millennium workplace, being the boss doesn’t mean being in charge.

Any boss who believes his or her role is to maintain order and drive people to hit yardsticks on the wall can only hurt every good thing an organization can hope for – like teamwork, commitment and spontaneity. 

Your culture is your most important and only sustainable competitive advantage. Your culture can flex with changing circumstances and particular human changes. You can’t measure your culture but it’s the biggest factor in your success or failure.

You can’t measure culture, but you create an open and trusting culture by talking about fear and trust.

You can keep your team’s energy at the top of your radar screen and make the topics of fear and trust as common in your discussions as the forecast and the budget.

Measurement springs from fear, and excess measurement kills trust and forward energy.

In a trusting culture, you’ll measure only the things that have a clear, significant impact on your business and then you’ll stop. Your focus will be on your forward motion — not stopping every few minutes to measure how far you’ve come!

It’s fun to compute and tabulate. For some people, it’s intoxicating.

I can think of many ways in which Big Data can help our planet and individual communities and people.

At the same time the cult of measurement at work, particularly the measurement of human activities for evaluation purposes, is one of the most pervasive and damaging pieces of the Godzilla apparatus of traditional business.

We are held up to yardsticks and kept off-balance by the fear of missing them when we should be lifted up and inspired to try new things and reach beyond our grasp.

When you measure something, you change it.

In the relationship between an employee and his or her employer, the constant humming presence of the message ‘We’ve got our eye on you — better hit your marks!’ drowns out any other message you might try to send.

The message “Don’t miss your numbers, or you’re toast!” makes any aspiration higher than hitting the numbers impossible.

Our jobs are more creative now than traditional management structure can acknowledge or make room for.

We waste the most precious resource we’ve got — the huge brains and passionate energy of our teammates – by keeping them boxed in and constrained by one-size-fits-all job descriptions, pay grades and rules, reinforced by yardsticks everywhere you look.

The yardsticks say “Look here, employee – you are a production unit. Your great ideas are awesome, and your enthusiasm is great. Still, you need to know that if you miss your numbers, you’ll be history.”

Who could create, innovate, or collaborate under that dark cloud?

We hurt ourselves, our customers and our shareholders as well as our teammates when we squash people into little boxes and measure them into the dust.

Measuring isn’t leading, and you will never measure your way to greatness – no matter how hard you try. 

This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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