The Problem with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Joe (not his real name) began the team meeting by covering the team’s scorecard and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

“Great work on your sales KPIs, we’re in the top-tier across the board. We are so close to beating Sharon’s district. If everyone just sold one more today, I think we can do it!
Also, we seem to be struggling in the customer service KPIs. We have a downward trend and there are 4 districts ahead of us. I need more focus there across the board. Janet, you are doing the best so whatever you’re doing keep it up. Everyone else, I need you to try a bit harder. Awesome. Thanks everyone, now let’s go make it a great day. Remember, fantastic customer service!”

If that sounds like a team huddle you’ve ever been in, you know why I have a love/hate relationship with KPIs. Joe’s team may understand the KPIs, but they don’t have a clue what they are supposed to do when they leave that meeting.

What should they DO to sell one more?

How DO they improve the customer experience?

KPIs Are Indicators, Not Action

Scorecards and KPIs provide wonderful directional indicators. Good trends point to actions worth replicating. Bad trends shine a spotlight on what must change. A hard look at the data can help you to identify best practices. Comparative scorecards will also help you identify outliers who need more support.

KPIs are important.

One of the biggest mistakes I see team leaders make is talking about the KPIs instead of the behaviors needed to achieve them.

KPIs are a terrible topic of conversation.

People don’t change scorecards, they change behaviors.

A focus on KPIs versus behaviors can lead to useless, if not stupid actions.

Almost any behavior applied with enough focus will create a short-term lift in results.

Micromanagement can get you there for a hot minute. Fear and intimidation will work for a while. Heavy incentives and hoopla will create a short-term lift. Ice cream and pizza can’t hurt either.

Upward trends in KPIs without an underlying change in behaviors, can lead to a false sense of security.

When the fear goes away or the sugar wears off, the results go back down.

The Behaviors That Matter

The only way to build sustained results is to improve the underlying behaviors. Don’t ask a sales rep to be more courteous. Ask her to open the door for the customer, use the customer’s name, and walk around the counter with the bag. Talking about the frequency of those behaviors will do more good than talking about her customer service survey percentages.

So what are the right behaviors? Why not ask the team?

What tools and techniques have you used to ensure the conversation focuses on behaviors?
How have you avoided the distraction of numbers and KPIs?

how to build a strong team vision

How To Build a Strong Team Vision

Whenever I work with a new team, one of the first questions I ask is “what is the team vision?” Most of the time, this is tough to answer. There is usually strong alignment and attachment to the greater organization’s vision and values, which is vital.

What’s frequently missing is a sense of team vision.

Sure there are goals, but they may or may not be inspiring. To build results that last, people want a connection to something bigger. The more localized you can make the vision, the more engaged your team will be in accomplishing it.

In her post, “A Big Goal is Not the Same as a Vision, “Jesse Lynn Stoner shares:

“One way to distinguish between a vision and a goal is to ask, “What’s next?” A vision provides clear ongoing direction—it is clear what you should do next. As you take each step, the next one becomes clear. A vision continues to act as a beacon, guiding you in setting new goals once current ones have been achieved.”

How to Build a Strong Team Vision

1. Start One on One

Talk to each team member individually about the possibilities for the team at it’s very best.  Define the future. Imagine possibilities.

  • What would it look like if we were to do our very best?
  • What would we be known for?
  • What would we accomplish?
  • How would the team be working together?
  • What will it take for us to get there?
  • As the team leader, what’s the most important way I can contribute to this future?

2.Set the Stage

Schedule time where the team can work uninterrupted. Bring some easel paper, markers and sticky notes

3. Begin with the company vision and values

Ensure everyone understands the big picture – what does success look like for the company? The team vision must directly support the company’s overall vision and strategy.

4, Imagine it is 5 years from now. The team is being recognized for making a game-changing contribution.

  • What is the most important work we are doing?
  • What are our customers saying about us?
  • What does it feel like to work on this team?
  • What is senior management saying about us?

5. Turn the ideas into a bold statement of the desired future. Eg: “We will be known for the best customer service in the nation.”

6. Determine how you will measure success

“… as measured by NPS, repeat calls, and customer churn”

7. Identify specific behaviors

Identify behaviors that are needed from you (the leader), and each member of the team to make the vision a reality. Write them down. Create a matrix of what each key role must be doing to accomplish the vision.

8. Stakeholder

Share your vision and key behaviors with your boss and other key players. Refine as needed to ensure your breakthrough vision is aligned with evolving strategy.

9. Get to work

How will you link everything you do and say back to the vision?

Recognize early success. What has gone well? How and when can you acknowledge these early victories, tell the stories, and encourage momentum?

Be impatient. Support your stragglers. Teach your team to share their good work.

How To Build Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure

 

I’ve heard all of the following phrases and many more like them uttered over the years.

“I can’t take a vacation, every time I do the whole place falls apart.”

“I had that organization running so well, and then she took over what a mess”

“Well, she was the lynch pin that held that whole place together, now that she’s moved on I am not optimistic”

“I came back from maternity leave early, I just couldn’t stand the thought of cleaning up the mess”

“She built all those relationships, we can’t replace that”

Not only have I heard these phrases, I am embarrassed to say that I have said some of them.

Sometimes they are true.

Sometimes they are not.

Either way, it’s not leadership.

An important sign of real leadership is what happens after the leader moves on.

  • Is there a clear vision?
  • Does the team have a clear brand and shared values?
  • Do the next steps seem perfectly clear?
  • Does each member know how they can best contribute?
  • Can the team rely on one another to get things done?

And yet, some leaders seem to take secret pride when things fall apart in their absence. They exude a quiet form of giddy when their team can’t function without them.

Short-term results are important. But how do you build a team that can sustain results long after you have moved to the next assignment?

If you are a “indispensable” leader, something is really wrong. You are not adding value long-term.

What can you do now, to ensure your impact will last?

Is Your Team Built to Last?

Jim Collins has fantastic research about how great companies do this in his books, Good to Great and Built To Last. Important research, great reads.

But if you are like most of my readers, you are not the COO of a Fortune 50 company. You are you. You have done your best to build a great team. You care deeply about the results you have built. You care even more deeply about your team. How do you ensure all this sustains?

Over the coming days, I begin a series on Building Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure. In each post, I will share my insights, along with more questions for our Let’s Grow Leaders Community.

I look forward to our conversation on how to…

  • Establish a Strong Vision
  • Develop Key Behaviors
  • Create Interdependent Success
  • Leave a Remarkable Successor

Take a few minutes. Reflect on your stories and get ready to share. Not ready to share stories? Bring on the questions. Together we will explore the excitement, challenge and nuances of building results that last beyond tenure.

 

12 Turnaround Tactics

Turnaround situations offer a great opportunity to lead.

I had one mentor whose tongue in cheek advice was, when considering taking a new job “always look for the one where the guy before you was an idiot.”

I get most excited when the situation is a big mess.

In such scenes there seems to be more political latitude to make dramatic change.

Rocking a sinking boat is more acceptable.

Even when things look broken on the outside, there is usually more going right than wrong.

The trick is to carefully assess the situation, and then pick the right things to change.

So you’ve been asked to turnaround something important. What do you do?

Here’s my thinking based on experience what would you add?

12 Turnaround Dos

  • Start slow and ask a lot of questions
  • Give the current team the benefit of the doubt
  • Find your “A Players” and ask what they would do
  • Talk with key stakeholders about what is working and what is not
  • Create a clear and compelling vision and values
  • Clearly articulate what will be different and what will remain the same
  • Understand the current “brand” of the team or organization and where it came from
  • Clearly define the skills needed for success
  • Assess the will and skill of the current team, and get the right people in the right seats
  • Recruit for missing skill sets
  • Identify the key behaviors for success
  • Consider re-branding the organization or project with a new name and/or logo (make sure something is really different before you do this)
  • ???
  • ???

Bonus: Turnaround Don’ts

  • Talk poorly about previous leadership or strategy
  • Assume everything needs to change
  • Assume your current team can’t be effective
  • Change everything
  • Assume you know what is best
  • Be afraid to make some bold changes
  • Become frustrated change takes time
  • Start claiming victory too soon
  • ???
  • ???

Every situation and every organization is different. I would love to hear what you’ve learned along the way.

 

The Secret To Increased Productivity: 3 Steps to Improved Performance

Do you hope for increased productivity? The solution may be closer than you think.

A guest post from Karin Rigas, Greve, Denmark

Karin Moeller Rigas has worked as a Sales Manager, Executive Coach, and Management Consultant within Retail Banking for more than 25 years. Founder of www.emodigy.com, an e-learning site for managers, she is the author of the book, You are special – Strong foundations make great employees.

Looking for increased productivity? Don’t look for yet another tool to implement in the organization. Instead, look seriously within yourself as a manager and leader.

Scientific studies indicate…

  • Most frustrations during the day are caused by managers
  • Frustration leads to lower productivity
  • Recognition from the manager is by far the largest trigger for increased performance
  • People want to be successful and know when they are successful
  • Highly skilled leaders create high performing teams

Why not use yourself as the tool to increase performance and productivity?

There are 3 important elements to increasing productivity: establishing key values, structuring your interaction with employees, and continuously improving your own performance.

Establish Your Key Values

It starts by leaning on simple values.

Below are the values that guide my leadership, what would you add?

  • People want to do their best.
  • People want to be involved in designing their own future.
  • People’s strengths compensate for their focus areas (when they are in the right job)
  • Great storytelling is key to emotional engagement
  • Balancing “setting direction” and “developing people” in a clever way leads to success in leadership
  • A person’s best performance is built upon solutions they chose
  • People want to learn more– everyone learns differently.
  • Leaders must be multi-dimensional to be able to support the employees’ development.
  • Receiving and giving feedback with an open mind, creates trust in the relationship and is a pre-requisite for a great learning curve.
  • Leaders must be close to their people in everyday leadership.
  • Recognition and appreciation in everyday working life is the largest driver for great performances and good health.
  • ???

Structure your interactions

Be close to people in everyday management and leadership through regular and scheduled meetings like monthly meetings. Vary meeting style to include co-hosted meetings, success-sharing meetings and performance management meetings. The core tool for these conversations is coaching and feedback. These interactions are a great way to role-model and reinforce your key values.

Improve your own performance and productivity

Get coaching and feedback yourself. Let other people see you in action and let them help you with feedback and coaching. There is nothing more effective than on-the-job training– go ”all in.” The more you are willing to get feedback (from all directions), listen to it, and change, the larger a step you will take in your own personal development. The more you improve, the larger impact you will make on people activities and results.

Are Your Meetings Effective? Measure Your Meeting “Net Promoter Score”

Do you run effective meetings?

When was the last time someone left one of your meetings and told everyone, “that was a GREAT meeting. You’ve really got to come next time.”

Do you have a good sense of what they are saying?

Would they come if they had a choice?

Many companies use the idea of the Net Promoter Score asking the “Ultimate Question” to measure their customer service. This question asks, “on a scale of 1-10 how likely would you be to recommend us to your friend or colleague?” The system’s not perfect, but there is beauty in its simplicity. The best information comes from taking a deeper look at what the “promoters (those who would recommend) say vs. the “detractors (those who would not).”

Try ending your meetings with a simple question

Would you recommend this meeting to a friend?

or variations on the theme…

Was this meeting a good use of your time?

Will you be more effective as a result of this meeting?

Do You Have Meeting Promoters or Detractors?

Consider the last meeting you facilitated. Would you have more promoters or detractors? What would each of these groups say on their way out the door.

Themes from meeting promoters

“The meeting had a clear purpose and agenda”

“All the right people were there”

“Everyone contributed”

“We stayed right on topic”

“We made lots of decisions”

“I know just what to do next”

Themes from Meeting Detractors

“It was more of a one-way information dump”

“I am not really sure what that meeting was about”

“The right people weren’t there”

“We didn’t stay on topic”

“We didn’t make any decisions”

“We were just there to update our boss”

How do you know your meetings are effective? When is the last time you asked?

PS: You may find this article from Patrick at Hello Focus intriguing. Some interesting stuff about meetings here!

Are Your Meetings Effective? Measure Your Meeting "Net Promoter Score"

Do you run effective meetings?

When was the last time someone left one of your meetings and told everyone, “that was a GREAT meeting. You’ve really got to come next time.”

Do you have a good sense of what they are saying?

Would they come if they had a choice?

Many companies use the idea of the Net Promoter Score asking the “Ultimate Question” to measure their customer service. This question asks, “on a scale of 1-10 how likely would you be to recommend us to your friend or colleague?” The system’s not perfect, but there is beauty in its simplicity. The best information comes from taking a deeper look at what the “promoters (those who would recommend) say vs. the “detractors (those who would not).”

Try ending your meetings with a simple question

Would you recommend this meeting to a friend?

or variations on the theme…

Was this meeting a good use of your time?

Will you be more effective as a result of this meeting?

Do You Have Meeting Promoters or Detractors?

Consider the last meeting you facilitated. Would you have more promoters or detractors? What would each of these groups say on their way out the door.

Themes from meeting promoters

“The meeting had a clear purpose and agenda”

“All the right people were there”

“Everyone contributed”

“We stayed right on topic”

“We made lots of decisions”

“I know just what to do next”

Themes from Meeting Detractors

“It was more of a one-way information dump”

“I am not really sure what that meeting was about”

“The right people weren’t there”

“We didn’t stay on topic”

“We didn’t make any decisions”

“We were just there to update our boss”

How do you know your meetings are effective? When is the last time you asked?

PS: You may find this article from Patrick at Hello Focus intriguing. Some interesting stuff about meetings here!

Want Great Customer Service? Call A Vampire

If you need to contact a customer service call center, today would be a good day.

You will likely get great customer service. Employees will be happy, spirits will be high.

Oh, and the pictures will be fantastic.

From my experience and in talking to leaders in call centers across the industry, today the phones will be answered by vampires, zombies, clowns, and pirates. There will be joy in their voices, a skip in their steps, and their customer service will be delightful.

Why Costumes Lead to Great Customer Service

I asked a seasoned customer service leader why costumes work.

It’s the energy. My theory has always been that results on any singular day are driven by atmosphere. So costume days increase the fun and excitement, and it shows in the tone and inflection. When you are having fun and are excited, the pace of your conversation, the conviction of your voice are upped another level. The secret we all wish we could bottle is the energy and excitement on the floor. For the long-term it’s driven by effective coaching, and the only way coaching works is if you have a willing audience, you get that by how you interact daily.

Why Leaders Should Wear One Too

I have spent much of my career finding excuses to wear wigs, sing songs, and inspiring others to do the same. My “best of” pics lining the walls of my office include my entire leadership team dressed as the gang from Star Wars, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and other “you just had to be there” moments. These times create lasting memories and bring the team closer together.

Costumes work because…

  • Costumes are silly, and silly is fun. We all need that
  • Fun makes us real. Real creates connections. Connections inspire awesome customer experiences
  • Teams long for a leader to show they are vulnerable. Nothing says exposed like a blue wig.
  • Risk taking is an important leadership competency, it’s a bit gutsy to ask your team to follow you into a costume, maybe it will make the next risk easier to take
  • Silly creates lasting team experiences which draw the team together. “Remember the time she had us all.”(they may complain, but I guarantee the guy who resisted the most has a picture of that day in his office)
  • It says fun is good. Let’s make more. And send me your pics.

Cheer in the Next Gear: How to Make Your Support Count

Each time a cyclist peddled past our corner at the Ironman triathlon , the woman sitting next to me on the curb would clang her large cowbell. No words. No sign of emotion. This went on for hours. It was almost a Pavlovian response. See bike, ring bell. She was committed. She never missed an athlete. For whom was her bell tolling? Why was this helpful?

In contrast, my husband Marcus is my cheering hero. I have run several marathons by his side, and watched him as he cheers from the inside of the race; looking to encourage anyone running behind, ahead or beside him. His cheers go something like this:

“Hey cheese head!” (quick caveat here, this greeting works best when the guy you are approaching is wearing a large styrofoam 3 cornered cheese hat). How’s it going? I’ve been watching you run and you really seem like you’re feeling strong. Have you run marathons before? What time are you going for? Oh yeah, you’re right on pace. YOU’VE GOT THIS!

He cheers the same way off the asphalt.

As leaders, how we cheer for our teams matters. When cheering is too general or lacks sincerity it can do more harm than good. It’s discounted at best, and can diminish a leader’s credibility.

How to CHEER with Impact

Whether your are cheering with a microphone in a large team context, or are encouraging someone by their side, there are specific ways to ensure your cheering is helpful.

Confidence

Communicate your sincere confidence in the person or team’s ability to achieve the desired goal

Honor

Share why you know they can win. Honor specific accomplishments or characteristics that communicate your confidence and build theirs

Energy

Tap into what is energizing them about this goal, breathe your energy into that place

Emotion

Draw on your own experiences to create an emotional connection

Rejoicing

Celebrate what they’ve accomplished so far and rejoice in their wins

Give The Guy a Brake: The Power to Stop

So you’ve got everything rolling on all cylinders. The right people, all on the proverbial right bus, all moving in the right direction. Excellent. You’re a motivational leader with a strong vision, inspiring the team toward unprecedented results. This team is fired up, everyone’s with you. Fantastic? Or just about to get dangerous?

Whenever I start a new role, the first person I look for is my “brake guy.” The guy (or gal) who has a deep knowledge of the business at hand, who cares deeply about doing the right thing, and has the courage to say “stop.”

And then my plea goes something like this…

“We are starting on an incredible journey. And trust me, we are going to get the right folks on the bus, all moving in the right direction, and we are going to build momentum. It will be exciting and we’re going to go fast. We might even get folks singing along as we ride (see skipping to work). We will work hard to build an environment of empowerment and constructive dissent. And yet, when it seems just right, it’s harder to stop. You are my brake guy. I need you to be by my side and ready to pull the brake whenever I am about to drive this bus over the edge. I assure you it will happen and when it gets to that point I am counting on you. I promise I will listen.

Brake guys are invaluable. I have had some fantastic brake guys over the years. It doesn’t happen often, but every time they have used that power, they have been dead on and all I could say was thank you.

Leaders who work fast with big vision, need someone like this around them. I recognize that not every leader fits into this category. If you err on the side of caution, you might need a “push me off the cliff guy,” but that’s a subject for another time.

How Brake Guys Can Help

They…

  • remind you to pause before reacting
  • offer more data and analysis
  • hear what the team is not saying
  • provide historical context
  • remind you of the long-term implications
  • offer options you may not have considered

If you are brake guy, thank you on behalf of all of us who need you.
If you need one, find one, and listen well.

Please share: Have you ever had a brake guy?
How was he or she helpful?
Have you served in that capacity?
 

Get More Done in Less Time: Learning From Crises

When are you most productive? If you are like most people I know the answer is easy, when you really need to be. Most of us have great examples of crises and other urgent situations, where folks pull together and get more done.

And yet, at other times, lots of stuff seems to get in the way. And we look at each other with the common question, “how can I get more done?”

We Use The Time We Have

 

It’s human nature. When we have time,, we use it.

Most projects take at least the time allotted. Most conference calls finish just-in-time. When is the last time you saw a BAU project expedited–because it was possible?

We know this as Parkinson’s law, work expands to fill the time allotted. Nothing is expedited when things are moving along as planned, because it doesn’t need to be.

What Can We Learn from a Crises?

One the other hand, in a time of crises, the time allotted is zero, so everything is expedited. There is something urgent that must be fixed. Suddenly, the normal protocols disappear and work happens fast.

There’s a lot to be learned about execution from a crises. At times of natural disasters, blackouts, and other unthinkable crises, teams pull together and execute in ways they never thought possible. Creative solutions emerge from seemingly nowhere, “impossible” deadlines are exceeded, and competitors collaborate for the greater good, Organizations and teams execute with an efficiency they never thought possible.

Why? What good can we learn from these undesired times?

Here’s a list of what I’ve seen first hand over the years, and observed and followed in other people’s fantastic stories of execution in a time of crises.

How They Get More Done

  • Everyone becomes energized around a common mission
  • Decisions normally made by committee, are made on the fly
  • People work extraordinary hours, and feel enlivened by their contribution
  • IT and other complex projects that normally require substantial planning are expedited and done in Herculean time frames
  • Communication becomes paramount: people talk frequently
  • Decision makers roll-up their sleeves to help, and the experts rise to positions of power
  • Standard protocols soften, and people support one another
  • Companies collaborate for the greater good
  • No one touches Powerpoint until the post-mortem
  • …???

Of course, we can’t live on an adrenaline rush all the time. And, fast decisions can also have downsides. On the other hand

 

The Secret to Effective Time Management: A Story to Win By

Time management techniques typically involve identifying priorities and scheduling well. There is also power in building in unscheduled time, leaving white space on the calendar for reflection and spontaneous magic.

Adding some white space into your time management strategy can lead to better strategy, creative breakthroughs, and a more poised approach.

And so, I offer a story of time management, great mentoring, and leveraging the white space.

Time Management Lessons From a White Space Sherpa

I had just started my “dream job” straight out of graduate school. Eager to be successful, I got in before the boss, and stayed late to get more done. I had my shiny new Franklin Planner (back in the days of binders and systems), and I proudly scheduled every hour with meaningful activity. I was proud of my time management system and approach to success.

One night, my boss came by my cube (I was secretly glad that he saw me there so late). He just said, “come to my office and bring your planner.”

He took my planner and arbitrarily started crossing out meetings.

I was shocked.

“You need white space. You are not going to be successful without it.”

I argued, “but you can’t cross out THOSE meetings.”

“Fine,” He replied. “Move what you want around, but I want you to come back to me with a calendar that has white space built into every day. Oh, and while you are at it, pick which days you are going to get out of here on time to spend time with your family.”

I did.

When I met with him next, we brainstormed the possibilities for productive things to do in the white space on my calendar. Including “stare at the walls” to get great ideas. He then got on the phone and started calling Vice Presidents.

“I have this promising young leader who you haven’t yet met. She just had some meetings unexpectedly cancelled and is going to be in your neck of the woods next week (news to me). I wonder if she could stop by and get to know you.”

Brilliant.

“See, that’s what you can do with white space,” he smiled.

The truth is, with more “free time” I was actually more productive because I had time to think. Our results were fantastic that year, and his networking strategy built a strong foundation to begin my career.

I believe in white space.

The Danger of Free Time

Today it’s even harder to master the white space game. Even if we manage to carve out unscheduled time as part of our time management strategy, the push and lure of communication from email, text and instant messages, and all the social media can suck us in to less productive activity.

Chris Brogan shared his own struggles with white space in his fantastic newsletter, along with tips for a strategy to address. He encourages us to identify our “go-to triggers” for filling down time (twitter, email, twitter, facebook, twitter), and instead create a more deliberate approach.

His approach to avoiding triggers, and using white space effectively:

Let’s make three lists:

1.) Someday
2.) The Bigger Story
3.) Now

Onto “Someday,” place everything you haven’t touched and that really doesn’t relate to anything in the short-term (because if it did, you’d have completed it already).

Onto, The Bigger Story, list what your REAL big goals are, and what your focus should be.

He then provides more detail on how to manage these lists and effectively use your downtime in your time management strategy.

So, it’s a two-fold mission. First, find and preserve the white space. And next, know which “someday” and “bigger story” goals you want to pursue in that time.