To be in vogue today, organizations have become predominantly ‘metric centric.’ This has helped business leaders be disciplined about setting goals and meticulously measuring progress toward them, both of which are necessary advancements to succeed in a global, highly competitive world. To further their knowledge, leaders comb through stats every month or so to find what is not working and why, and then they plan course corrections.
These numbers are important, but it is imperative to remember that behind every number there are people. And behind every person (i.e., customer, partner or employee), there is a relevant story and a way to improve business performance.
How to find the wisdom
Teams often operate within a traditional authority structure that fails to promote upward communication or decision-making at lower levels. When information is gathered, it is typically the manager asking specific questions and looking for details so that he/she can determine factors and solve the problem based on an employee’s response. However, employees who are closest to the process and output often have a deeper understanding of the factors involved and can provide valuable feedback and insight. So how do we as leaders uncover this knowledge so that businesses can replicate or improve good practices and build upon them?
Below are a few recommendations to help you discover wisdom behind the metrics within your organization:
- Increase self-awareness: This will help you understand how you may be inadvertently shutting down potential feedback or keeping workers operating in a self-protective mode. According to Brené Brown in her best-selling book Rising Strong, “Strong leaders must identify the things that kill trust and creativity in order to nurture cultures and conditions that allow good people to do their best.”
- Understand blind spots: Blind spots prevent us from seeing the most obvious nuances. Ask your employees two questions: What do I need to know? and What am I not seeing? The simple act of open listening will mitigate against blind spots that keep us from seeing critical details or impact on our businesses.
- Wisdom in addressing mistakes: Lessons learned should increase knowledge and development rather than serve as “gotchas” or as a means to put a label on someone, which will only limit his or her productivity and growth. Employees may observe decisions, policies and performance feedback that seems inconsistent with key messages from senior leadership and desired cultural attributes, so be sure that your business leaders are sending clear and consistent messages. Confusion will distract from optimal productivity.
- Instill a vision: Leaders have a responsibility to help employees re-envision “why” the organization exists and “why” their roles and contributions are important to the whole business effort. This assurance will fuel passion and commitment in the workforce and give meaning to each person’s efforts. It can also lead to a feeling of ownership and will empower individuals to want to make a difference.
Each of these tips can increase success for both leaders and their employees. Find ways to move performance forward by understanding the capabilities and perspectives of your workforce. The “whole” story (metrics, people and perspectives) will clarify obstacles and yield winning and repeatable outcomes.