What you measure improves.
There is some debate over whether Thomas S. Monson or Karl Pearson first uttered those words, but it’s become an accepted business truism.
I call it the Law of Measurement.
I have found that in managing goals, objectives, even behavioral patterns, it always holds true. Because when you measure the outcomes of a strategy, tactic, or initiative, against previous performance and established goals, you have the power to make the changes necessary to improve the numbers.
But what about managing the so-called “soft skills,” those nuances of attitude and interpersonal dynamics that determine whether or not your team is even willing to put the effort into improving the metrics you’re measuring? A manager once told me she’d underestimated the difficulty of improving soft skills but soon learned that “hard skills are hard, and soft skills are even harder.”
That’s true for many entrepreneurs and mangers because they’re focused only on the Law of Measurement while ignoring two other laws that are equally vital to achieving business objectives.
The result of mastering these other laws won’t be measurable, but it will be immeasurably effective in improving the things that you do measure.
I call the first one The Law of Reinforcement. What you reinforce expands.
If you reinforce kindness, the circle of impact created by kind acts will expand to include more of your team members, more of your clients, more of your community, more of your world. If you reinforce diligence, the list of things your team is diligent about will expand to include additional areas where you haven’t even requested greater diligence.
When you give positive reinforcement to something you want to see more of, you are reinforcing an existing success model. It’s far easier for people to intentionally increase the frequency or intensity of a behavior they’re already exhibiting, or to emulate the behavior of someone they work with, than it is for them to intentionally correct behavior you’re attempting to change through “negative reinforcement.”
Consistently using a combination of public and private feedback and reward will expand the positive attributes of your team to other areas of your business, and infect the rest of your team with a desire to be part of the expansion.
Finally, let’s talk about the Law of Tolerance.
What you tolerate escalates.
A common management dilemma is how to coach or discipline an employee whose attitude, behavior, or performance results have become unacceptable. The secret is not only in how you handle the unacceptable behavior, it begins with noticing the trend toward unacceptable, and being clear about the consequences, before it escalates into a disciplinary issue.
If you won’t tolerate the problem when it’s bigger, you cannot afford to ignore it when it’s small.
Problems are like weeds. Ignoring them doesn’t just allow them to continue, it guarantees that they will grow.
So that offhand dismissal of your request for a timely report on the project? That’s a baby weed. The deprecating, but joking, remark about another team member’s appearance or preferences? That’s a baby weed. The grumbling about workload, deadlines, or your nitpicking the grammar in their presentation materials? That’s a baby weed.
Would you tolerate reports not reaching you on time, team members openly insulting each other or outright sloppiness in presentations? You would not. So the next time you catch yourself thinking, “It’s not so bad, I don’t need to say anything yet,” just know that when that baby weed gets bigger, the roots will be harder to remove.
These three laws are completely interdependent. If you’re setting goals and reinforcing the attitudes and behaviors that accelerate achievement of the goals, but tolerating even a few little weeds, the resulting damage to morale will make it harder than it needs to be to get where you want to go.
If you’re setting goals and pulling those weeds when they first sprout, you’ll make progress, but the enthusiasm and expansion that comes from reinforcing positive attitudes and behaviors will be missing.
Of course, if you’re reinforcing the positive, and addressing the problem areas when they are still small, but don’t have metrics in place to measure the areas of change essential to meeting your goals, you aren’t likely to see significant improvement in those areas.
However, when you and your management team master all three laws you can expect to achieve your goals and have a lot more fun doing it!