From Counting to Quality:
Help Your Busy Team Work Smarter
Last week, we talked about meaningful metrics, focusing on the game, not the score, and identifying and isolating the daily habits most likely to lead to success. Today we go a level deeper with a practical way to ensure your team’s busy day is worth it– giving them the breakthrough results they’re working so hard to achieve.
Here’s the sad truth. It’s really easy to have a busy, busy day, with alarmingly little to show for it. We’ve all been there.
Of course, there are lots of reasons for this. Sloppy emails, unclear expectations, unproductive conflict, and workplace drama. Days are filled with tons of activity, but you end the day, week, or month and have nothing to show for all that effort.
The problem could be distractions from the most important activities. It could also be THE WAY way your team is performing their tasks. They may be performing the activities and habits that SHOULD lead to success. But doing those habits without the right focus on outcomes can become a box-checking exercise.
They’re doing what you asked, but are focused on counting metrics (how busy they are), vs. quality metrics, (how well they are accomplishing these tasks).
How to Make the Most of a Busy Day: Moving From Counting to Quality
Moving from counting to quality means re-evaluating how people are spending their time. Some team members will do what they know how to do or are comfortable with doing. They’re busy, but doing lots of what’s familiar, not necessarily what’s most helpful.
You’ll need to help them make this shift (and model it yourself). For others, they may be doing exactly what’s needed, but are missing one small change that will leverage their hard work.
Let’s look at three examples of shifting from counting to quality.
Busy Day Example 1: The Enthusastic Sales Rep, Who’s Just Not Selling
First, imagine that you’re leading a sales team. One of your measurements is the number of times salespeople visit an existing client to uncover additional opportunities. You have a sales rep who exceeds their quota of visits and is always out with clients – every day is a busy day.
But, the trouble is, they’re NOT SELLING anything new to those clients. The activities and habits that SHOULD work to help them accomplish their MIT (Most Important Thing), aren’t. You investigate and it turns out that they’re spending time with the same three low-level managers because they have a good relationship. But they’re not asking strategic questions or uncovering sales opportunities.
Now, as you help them grow from counting those visits to quality visits, you’ll have them analyze who they’re visiting, what they discuss on the visits, and whether or not they set up a next step.
A quality visit might include an introduction to a senior manager, a discussion of upcoming projects, learning about their sourcing requirements, or a follow-up meeting to share how your company can meet those needs.
Busy Day Example 2: The Efficient Nurse, Missing Connection
Let’s look at another example from one of our healthcare clients. Their nursing staff was doing an excellent job with their numbers and countable activities. They took patients’ blood pressure and temperature, delivered medications, and completed their patients’ charts. But patient satisfaction scores didn’t reflect all that activity – as important as it is.
The move from counting to quality for the nursing team involved one small change in their busy day. When the nurse entered the patient’s room, they would greet the patient by name, tell the patient their name, and what they were there to do. That one small moment of connection leveraged all the other important work they were doing and their patient satisfaction scores improved.
As you help your team move from simple counting to evaluating the quality of their work and how much it contributes to the results you need to achieve, it’s important to apply this principle to your own work too.
It’s easy to get sucked into emails, into solving a problem that feels good but doesn’t make a big difference. This is a good time to pause and reflect on your busy day: do you have common activities that take up far more time than the value they add? How might you spend less time on these? Or perhaps stop doing them altogether?
Busy Day Example #3: The Check the Box Manager
This busy day example is one of the most dangerous. When HR checks the performance management system, this manager looks like they’re on top of their game. They’ve check all the boxes. Weekly one-on-ones, check. Mid-year reviews, check. Development plans, check. Five people recognized this month, check. Yup, they even took their team off-site for an end-of-year meeting.
And yet, employee engagement scores are some of the lowest in the company, and exit interviews indicate that the biggest reasons people are leaving are a lack of career path and support from their manager.
This is a case where the manager is so overwhelmed with the busyness of their job, that they’re not taking the time to truly invest in their employee’s development, just doing enough to keep “the HR police” off their backs. Or, they haven’t been trained on what success looks like for these critical employee development activities.
If you’re a manager of managers, don’t rely on a spreadsheet from HR to tell you how well your managers are developing their teams.
Focus on Quality
And “counting” metrics are certainly a start.
The sales experts are right, Sales IS a “numbers game” to SOME EXTENT. And, the number of phone calls made is only the beginning.
Sure, you need to know that your employees are following the safety protocols, but that’s table stakes, not excellence.
And YES, it’s so important to track if your managers are doing key tasks like one-on-ones or development plans. But it’s even more important to ensure they’re helping build confidence and competence in their employees.
If you want your team’s busy days to matter, we encourage you to dig a little deeper and focus on quality as well as counting.