Leadership's Most Powerful Tactic
Getting others to follow is the leader's principal task. And it's also the most difficult -- which is why so few leaders succeed. It's difficult because, as business management writer Michael Gerber said, "You can't make people do what you want. You can only create an environment where their doing what you want is easier than not doing it."
Malcolm Forbes put it another way. "Without push, pull's useless," he said. "Without the employee's internal push, your external pull is useless."
A powerful leadership tactic, and probably the most effective way to inspire people to perform, is measuring performance and publicizing the scores. It's powerful because it touches each person's "internal push." It taps into the human spirit's innate desire to grow and improve.
How much fun is it to go bowling or play basketball without keeping score? Keeping score introduces anticipation and meaning to the game. We are happiest when we are striving, stretching, lengthening our stride, and seeing results. We like to learn. We like to do better. And, we need to know how far and fast we are progressing.
We all want to compare our work to something. That "something" differs according to each individual person. Those of us who are competitive like to compare our achievements to others' results. We work best when someone is pushing us.
Others, who might be described as "progressive," like to compare their achievements to how well they performed last time. These are the people who anxiously await their grades after completing a class. I myself look forward to reading evaluations of the seminars I teach. So whether we are competitive or progressive, we all like to learn how we are improving.
As 19th century preacher and philosopher Henry Ward Beecher observed, "By every part of our nature, we clasp things above us, one after another, not for the sake of remaining where we take hold, but that we may go higher."
I suggest that you'll broaden your followers' compliance when you take advantage of their built-in desire to grow. By keeping score, you will NATURALLY entice employees to work better.
Great leaders can affect the performance of an organization by simply measuring its performance. In sum: when performance is measured, performance improves. It's a sound and effective leadership tactic.
Coach Pat Riley took the New York Knicks, at the time an average basketball team, to the NBA finals by measuring things that most teams did not measure. It's not unusual for teams to measure rebounds, blocked shots, assists, points, and attempts. But Riley went beyond that. He also measured hustle.
He did so by logging the number of rebounds the players went after but didn't get. He charted the number of times a player would dive for a loose ball, stand in place to take a charge and swat at a ball in an attempt to steal it.
He didn't lecture or berate. All he did was post the results in the locker room at the end of the game. The players took notice. He then started to get more of what he measured -- hustle. Before long, this ordinary team became a peak-performing team. Just by measuring, he got them to do what he wanted them to do.
Our employees tend to move toward what we focus on, or on what we measure. "What you measure, you improve," total-quality management guru W. Edwards Deming once said. "If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing."
People direct their actions according to how they're measured. So if you're looking for quick ways to change how an organization behaves, change what you measure.
The power of this tactic lies in the fact that keeping score concentrates focus, and focus may be the most powerful tool for building success.
"Success...my nomination for the single most important ingredient is energy well directed," said 20th century U.S. banker Louis B. Lundborg. "It is the process of diverting one's scattered forces into one powerful channel."
When we measure the results we want, our employees focus on what we desire them to see within a range of possibilities. It prevents them from being distracted by the many scattered things that their work throws at them. What you focus on you become, or attain.
How might even your performance improve if you knew someone was watching, measuring, tabulating, and publicizing your work?
Carpet One's "Installation Excellence Program" is built on the powerful tactic of measuring performance to improve results. It's amazing to see what some Carpet One stores have done to improve their installers' work and their customers' satisfaction. Regardless of whether or not the installers understand how this tactic influences them, it has raised the bar of excellence in installation.
So, what should you measure? Focus on results that matter. German poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe aptly said, "The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least." So measure things that affect key results.
In retail sales, the factors that dramatically affect crucial results are closing rates, average sale, items per ticket, and percentage of credit sales. These are the focus areas I'd measure on my scorecards for each salesperson.
Closing rate tracks the number of people who buy from your salespeople, compared to the number of people they try to sell. Calculate how sales would rise if your salespeople closed just one more customer in 10. If they perform at the industry average, they close at a 30% rate -- or three of every 10 customers. If they increased their closing rates to four out of 10, they'd increase your sales by 33% (a 40% closing rate is 133% of 30%). Dramatic? Yes!
I'd measure customer satisfaction with each salesperson and, like Carpet One, with each installer. I'd measure how clean and professional the installers appeared to the customer. I'd measure how well they cleaned up after the job and how courteous the customer felt they were. I'd then share the results widely within the company.
What are you keeping the scorecard current concerning installation, customer satisfaction, sales, and profitability? Are you focusing on key results?
Never underestimate the power of keeping score. Measure, measure and measure some more. Baseball teams do it. Basketball teams do it. Hockey teams do it. Football teams do it. So do great leaders -- they all keep score.
If you don't have a scorecard both for yourself and your employees, you'd better develop one. Keeping score is a great tactic for improving your influence.