Gentle Pressure, Relentlessly Applied: Four Commensurate Measures
Agreement on Approach: Openly communicate with the team to ensure everyone agrees on the manner and means of your approach to gain commitment.
Metrics for Assurance: Use metrics to track the efforts and performance of the team in order to validate your feedback, effect change, and improve.
Training & Coaching: Harness your role as a leader to train your team with new skillsets and coach them through the refinement of existing ones, guaranteeing they know how to do the work well.
Culture of Accountability: Foster a culture of accountability by setting expectations and following up in order to cultivate an environment that demands and breeds results.
“What gets measured, gets managed.” That’s a quote from Peter Drucker’s book, The Practice of Management. Though the book was written in 1954, it’s a quote that remains relevant today—perhaps even more so, considering the tools for metrics and measurement at our fingertips in a modern, digital world. The reason Drucker placed so much importance in measurement is the same one that inspired the advent of all these instruments that measure sales, returns, items per transaction, frequency, and engagement: metrics provide you with insight into how your business and employees are doing, when they’re improving, and when they need to improve. It’s the impetus and argument for effective change.
They way to track and change your employees’ efforts is to measure them. It’s your responsibility as a manager to foster a culture of measurement in your business; the expectation that efforts and activities are being tracked and measured, as are the results they afford, keeps employees on track, honest, and dedicated. And if those employees do veer off track, the proof is in the metrics, along with the justification and argument for change. If you expect to get results through your team, improve their performance, and increase your profitability, you can only do so with the deft tool of metrics.
Though metrics tend to be pretty cut and dry, your approach to how you implement them shouldn’t be quite so simple. Though you’re measuring results, you must instead manage the activities that drive those results. For example, if an employee’s items per transaction average is 6, blatant advice like, “Your items per transaction is 6, but it should be 8,” isn’t a form of successful coaching. Such an approach technically uses metrics, but it manages the results, not the activity, and it fails to coach the employee to higher numbers. The metrics here provide the starting point, but it’s up to you as the manager to assess the activities that result in that metric and to inspire change there. Effective use of metrics would instead look like this: “Your items per transaction are a little low, only 6; our goal is 8. I noticed that when you’re helping customers, you don’t suggest additional accessories like socks and compression shorts, which we’ve found can really help boost those IPUs. Let’s practice how to incorporate those sales into your approach.” Simply telling your employees they need to change and providing numerical proof isn’t enough; you need to help them see how to do it.
As a manager, you have access to a bevy of interesting, informative metrics. But your employees should not. It’s not that those metrics represent illicit information, but overwhelming information. Consider the metrics your employees have access to as a dashboard: they should be able to see the vital information that keeps themselves and the business running, but the nitty-gritty details aren’t necessary. In my car, I like to know how fast I’m going and how much gas I have: that’s all I need to get to my destination. If you were to flash other metrics across the dashboard—oil life, engine temperature, tire pressure, RPM, battery life—I’d get dizzy. Instead, my car only raises those metrics when there’s a problem. Present your employees with the key metrics they need to get the job done well, don’t bombard them with unnecessary data—unless it’s necessary to fix a problem.
Managers like you, on the other hand, should be constantly measuring all of the results of their efforts. When you notice shifts in the metrics, whether positive or negative, find out why and capitalize on it to inspire change. If metrics are falling, find out why and coach your employees through improvement. And if they’re rising, it’s just as important to find out why and coach your employees through amplifying those behaviors.
If your employees agree on approach—both the results they want to see and their role within those results—then implementing measures for assurance is the next step in achieving that approach. With analytical metrics, we can measure the results and motivate change in order to achieve our goals.