Numbers don’t lie. Of all the metrics that drive corporate performance, numbers are the telltale sign from which a company’s health is based. Data the office “gossip hound” credibility by turning conjecture into fact rather than continuing along the arc of the office rumor mill.
Without metrics there is no way to project improvement. Metrics are the means by which past performance gets scrutinized and added into the mental learning back known as an after action report or post mortem. If you don’t take the time to reflect upon the past, you’ll miss key performance indicators that are telltale signs for when to go, when to finish, and when to just wait in (bureaucratic) traffic/twiddle your organizational thumbs.
However, finding the right metrics is critical to paving the right path. You can measure anything but is the data earned the data valued? In other words, do the criteria being measured directly contribute to one of three priorities: the company, the department or team, you. Here are five (misleading) metrics to shy away from:
1. The number of meetings attended per day.
It’s not the quantity of meetings but the quality of how those meetings are executed that matter. Was there an agenda? Did the discussion follow the agenda? Were expectations met, and if not, why? The challenge isn’t getting people together, it’s getting them to talk candidly and share information in such a way that builds team learning. Meetings are training opportunities for leaders, development opportunities for direct reports and learning opportunities for both.
2. An empty email inbox.
Nothing says “insignificant” like a personally clean email inbox. Why? Because in startups, or any company for that matter, team success isn’t measured by individual efforts. Success is measured by the collective efforts of all who believe in the purpose their company serves. Use your time wisely, and focus it only on what you can affect. If you were just hired yesterday, then you just may be relegated to that "send" button. If you're a senior leader though, then get out and impact the one resource that can only come from you: people.
3. The office parties you get invited to (or don’t).
Winning isn’t the result of a popularity contest. Neither is leading. Leaders drive results that serve the purpose of the whole rather than just a few individuals. If that means not getting invited to your neighbor's Christmas party because you did something he or she disagreed with then, well, there's only one thing to do: throw a bigger, better party than your neighbor.
4. How many people say 'hi' to you.
This may be an important metric to feel good but it’s also misleading for this reason: people have different emotional needs. That is, to some people breezing past others in the hallway is perfectly acceptable because they're okay with being a social hermit. Conversely, there are those social butterflies who like to flap their wings (i.e., mouths) every chance they get. Neither is right or wrong, just different.
5. The number of PowerPoint slides in your presentation.
In business, the one constant about time is there’s never enough of it. Time is the most precious commodity in our lives because it qualifies the value of our efforts. The more time we spend on a product or with people is a direct reflection of how much value you place on behavior. The time we spend working is what garners a profit. The time we spend with others builds trust. The time we spend listening to feedback defines our authenticity as leaders. If you want to deliver a valuable presentation, be clear, concise and succinct so you can afford more time for your audience to do the things they want to do.
Metrics are important because they offer feedback. However, more critical than just having metrics is implementing the right metrics that drive success in the right direction, otherwise you're just working faster in the wrong direction.
Related: Success Must be Measured