Metrics and Double Standards

Spend any time in any organization and you'll run into a manager or executive with a double standard. The metrics that apply to their direct reports either don't apply to that manager or don't apply across teams with similar or the same outputs. Even if it is a small double-standard, the necrosis created spreads over time and it rots the foundation laid by the use of good metrics and solid leadership.

Of course, we all know of times where different metrics do apply to different teams with different goals or outcomes desired. That's a natural part of measuring anything: some measurements are helpful in one area but not another. What isn't helpful is when measurement, in general, doesn't apply to one team or one person. How can you, a manager and leader, avoid this conundrum?

First, take stock of how you are measuring yourself. What metrics are you subject to? Are you making those metrics visible to your teams? Chances are, someone is measuring you. If your team doesn't understand this, they may think you are subjecting them to metrics while you get by without measurement. Make the metrics and measurements used to measure you visible to your team and make your performance against those metrics visible.

You'll risk exposing your failures - that's vulnerable - and you'll gain trust and buy-in from your teams - that's valuable. If your management isn't measuring you and your division, create metrics for yourself and your division's output and hold yourself to them through accountability to your team. You'll not only build trust, but you'll also create an environment where you get to practice and experience what you are subjecting your team too.

A second way to avoid double-standards is to explain the "why" of your measurement and metrics approach and listen to your team's response to the why. One team may resent the metrics used for their performance if they feel another team has a different or easier set of metrics to meet. Diffuse this tension by always explaining your reasoning and the desired behaviors the metrics are intended to create for each team measured. I find that teams and individuals appreciate the willingness to explain why.

After you explain the "why", listen to their response carefully and without judgment.  Often teams and individuals stop poor metrics in their tracks by pointing out the trade-offs of the metrics that you'll need to strategize around. The combined approach of explaining and listening will generate new ideas and new engagement for your team.

Take a moment to inventory your leadership. Are you making the metrics you are accountable to visible to your team? Are you vulnerable enough to show your failures and successes, alike? Are you explaining the "why" and listening to the reactions of your teams? If not, consider taking one metrics and writing up the "why" and distributing it to your team for discussion at an upcoming meeting. And, by all means, if you can't think of behavior you are trying to change or create, consider abandoning that metric and coming up with a new one.