Modernize Leadership: Observe and Improve

1610_observeimproveheader

In a previous post, I described how today’s management techniques reflect outdated assumptions of technology-enabled practices, human behavior, and the meaning of success. That’s why organizations must shift to what I’m calling Modernize Leadership.

I’m writing individual posts for each of the eight key changes required to modernize leadership. In this post, I’m examining the shift from:

Measure and Track to Observe and Improve

Here’s some more information to better understand this shift:

Outdated Thinking
Here are some ways in which leaders must change how they view the world:

  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure. That’s a refrain that I often hear, and it pushes people in the totally wrong direction. The reality is that most things in life are managed without explicit measurements. Think about a typical day. You get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and commute to work without referring to a dashboard of metrics. That does not mean that measurements can’t help, but they hardly ever tell the entire story.
  • Managers often look for metrics they can to use to hold people and organizations accountable. Setting measurable goals is not a bad thing, but it can cause bad behaviors. Managers will sometimes overly focus on the metrics and ignore nuances such as actual behaviors of the team and shifts in the situation. They act as  if it’s possible to manage something you don’t truly understand. That all falls apart when the an organization needs to deviate from a “straight ahead” orientation.
  • When employees believe that a metric is very important, they are explicitly and implicitly encouraged to do whatever it takes to achieve the goal. This can lead to inappropriate behaviors such as a car salesperson insisting that you give him a “10” on a survey. At Staples, a metric of $200 of add-ons for each computer pushed employees to refuse selling computers to customers who weren’t going to purchase add-ons.

Heres a quote that is often attributed to Albert Einstein:

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Modernized Leadership Actions
Here are some ways in which leaders should act based on a modernized perspective:

  • Look positively forward. Metrics often show how an organization has performed during some previous timeframe, but what you really care about is how it will get better in the future. Make sure that your discussions with people are focused on what the organization can learn in order to  improve, not on blaming people for the problems that caused a poor score.
  • Encourage the right behaviors. If you want your organization to make improvements, then nurture the employee behaviors that will deliver better results. So celebrate employees who are doing the right things, even when the metrics aren’t great.
  • Build operational empathy. If you want your employees to do the right things, then they should feel as if you know their environment. Rather than having employees just see you commenting on metrics from afar, set aside time to regularly get immersed in different parts of the organization. Ask employees how they think the company can improve. This will help you understand when to “back off” reacting too strongly to the metrics and let employees know that numbers aren’t everything.
  • Enable continuous improvement. Instead of using measurements as a pure grading system, use them to identify places for improvement, and always ask: what have we learned and how can we get better? Your organization needs to have an ongoing improvement cycle that is at least at the same pace as your measurement system, otherwise metrics will only lead to frustration.

The bottom line: Observe your organization and focus on improvements.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

2 Responses to Modernize Leadership: Observe and Improve

  1. BethThomas-Kim says:

    Thank you, Bruce. How frequently do you plan to post the remaining 7 points on Modernizing Leadership?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: