I have learned through my many years in the business world that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. While it’s true that business can be both an art and a science sometimes, the math has to work for long-term success.
Over the past couple of years I have had the privilege of interviewing top women leaders from a wide range of fields, including, among others, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Frances Hesselbein, and Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark. All of these women took different routes to the top, but they all had things in common that defined their journey and got them there. For one, quantifying their accomplishments was a recurring theme.
Quantifying results is obviously a huge advantage for anyone climbing to the top. By measuring success and having benchmarks, all (or at least most) of the subjectivity is removed. Either one can do the job or they cannot. The numbers speak for themselves. Period.
Another advantage of measuring your work and your accomplishments is that you can easily put those numbers on your resume if you are shopping for another job. Or, when you are interviewed for the next job on your journey within your organization you can refer to them as a matter of fact and concrete proof of your ability to get the job done.
That’s not bragging, by the way. It’s just fact, and we should all be more comfortable pointing to those facts when we are discussing our performance. Performance numbers are the steering wheel we can use in our meetings, and without them, those conversations are apt to go anywhere and often do.
If you are a leader, please listen carefully. If you ask someone who reports to you to do a job but then offer no measurement of how they are progressing in that job, you are doing them a grave disservice. Where there is no measurement, there is no accountability.
And, let me just take a minute here and discuss accountability. It gets a bad rap sometimes. People feel like they are being watched, like Big Brother. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they are being browbeat about how their jobs are going. This is the bad version of accountability.
The good version uses the numbers as a guide to help you and I perform better. Knowing the numbers is the only way to keep moving up and to the right. Just think about what a Fitbit does for us achievers. It constantly send the numbers throughout the day to our phones so that, in real time, we can see how we’re doing (or not doing). Seeing that we didn’t measure up to yesterday pushes us to get moving and perform. That’s what great managers do with our numbers in the workplace. Encouragement, not browbeating.
Some would argue that not every job can be measured. Perhaps that is true. If so, I would suggest you avoid those jobs like the plague. My personal belief is that every role can be measured in some way. Here are just a few examples of accountability at its best I found in my research for my new book, Women Make Great Leaders:
Hala Moddelmog served as president of Atlanta-based Arby’s Restaurant Group, (an international quick-service restaurant chain with approximately 3,500 units) with annual system-wide sales of approximately $3 billion. She served from November 2010 to 2013. While at Arby’s, Moddelmog led the brand to 12 consecutive quarters of comparable store sales increases and increased EBITDA (earnings after interest and taxes) by 80 percent.
I once interviewed a savvy female consultant from a prominent lobbying firm who pushed the Managing Partner to clarify the “numbers goal” she would have to meet to make partner. She told me that the partners in the firm underestimated her and did not consider her ‘partner material’, for whatever reason. “When your book of business is seven figures, then you’re in the range,” the partner told her. Well, she hit that target and more, and ultimately made equity partner. She continues to be a top biller in the firm. Without numbers and accountability, the target might have kept moving and she would never have hit her goals.
Wind and Solar energy attorney, Cacki Jewart, understood that “rain-making” was crucial to winning equity partner at her firm. She told me, “Through another woman at the firm, who has since retired, and with the help of a male attorney in Kansas City who had more energy-related experience than she, I was able to bring in a large client to the firm, and then grew that client over several years.” Hitting her company’s stated goals changed the trajectory of her career. Knowing the numbers and goals made winning possible.
- While you can’t speed your years of experience, you can work hard and speed up the results you deliver. Make them measureable. That’s a sure way to get ahead.
- Observe how other people produce stellar results. Ask for their help and guidance. They’ll likely feel honored to help.
- Find your purpose. It’s hard to produce results just for the sake of results. You last longer and work harder when you’re following your passion.
- Produce measurable impact. Impact gets you noticed.