Every person, team and company has criteria for success. They may be exercise habits, participation or customer surveys. For any endeavor, having clear criteria for success allows us to gauge where we are along the productivity continuum. In other words, having clear criteria for success gives immediate feedback as to what has been accomplished and what is yet to be accomplished.
The point of executing this criteria is to achieve a new goal that will ultimately place us, the team or the company in a better position. It could be a better financial position, a healthier physical state or a more secure place emotionally.
However, not all criteria are created equally. There are certain measurements of success that fall prey to what I call “feel good” metrics -- numbers or percentages that make us feel good about achieving them, but, when we step back and look at the bigger picture, they don’t really matter. It’s easy to get sucked into measuring something because it can be measured, but just because the capacity is there doesn’t mean the results actually drive value.
Don’t get bitten by the immediate-feedback bug. Below are four “value-less” measurements of success to place at the bottom of your checklist (you can rest assured that “cash” is not on this list).
1. An empty email inbox
Think a clean email inbox is a sign of being productive? Think again. Just because you fired off yet another email means nothing in terms of productivity, because the message sent isn’t always the message received. It doesn’t mean that the tasks in the email will be accomplished. I can’t tell you how many emails I miss, not because I don’t check my inbox, but because there are so many to read.
What sending an email serves is the need for immediate feedback. It feels good to blast off another email, because it’s a way to pass the buck (of responsibility). It's to put the ball in the recipient’s court, wring our hands and say, “Okay, my work is done here.” Instead, focus on the goal of the email. What is the email trying to accomplish? Follow up with that task.
2. Getting listed on the “best company to work for” list
While this certainly helps build awareness about your company’s brand, having your company labeled as a “best company to work for” and actually deriving the best out of the company to fulfill employees are two different things. This is akin to authors who purchase their way on to the New York Times Bestseller list. Sure, they may be on the list, but it doesn’t mean their book will gain any traction outside of the bathroom. Remember, there's public perception -- and then there's reality.
3. Arriving early, leaving late
So you woke up before any mortal should wake up and headed into work. Good job. The truth is, nobody cares. Unless -- and this is a big “but” -- you’re the CEO, founder or positional leader. If you’re one of the latter, then yes, arriving early tells people that you do in fact work and do in fact care about the company. If you’re anybody else, unless promotions are based on brownie points, save yourself the stress.
What I’ve found as an executive coach is that many people who arrive early into work and leave late are compensating for other parts of their lives. They’re avoiding something at home, for instance, so they subconsciously find something else to do at work.
4. Working from home
So employees have asked if they can work from home. Big deal. All that really matters at the end of the day is whether or not they’re executing the daily tasks that serve the company’s strategies placed to achieve its objectives. That’s it.
However (and this is another big “but”), climate tends to suffer when face-to-face interaction is limited. There’s just no substitute for one-to-one communication. So, you can sustain a strong climate while working remotely by holding weekly meetings where fun (and attendance) is mandatory, or, you can limit the number of days employees work remotely to just Fridays -- a huge morale boost.
How do you define success? How does your company define it? Don’t let these “feel good” metrics interfere with real results.