In a recent conversation with a very successful business owner/leader we were exploring the challenges in his business with some of the emerging future leaders. They are the right people, doing a great effort and contributing to the success of not only the business but also to the others in the organization. You might think – where is the problem in that scenario?
To be fair, when a business runs at a great level of performance and the leadership is always trying to be the best they can be, the topics of challenges gets to be a bit more critical than constructive. This is both very good and very bad. If the spirit of the exploration is rooted in the core purpose and values of the organization and improvement is dynamically linked to them, then it can be extremely valuable. If the exploration starts to look into making judgments on particular ways this or that is done by this or that person, then it can erode to being bad for the organization. In simple terms if it is focused on process improvement it can be valuable. If it is focused on particular people or behaviors or style, then it can lead to destructive conversation. To help in differentiating these two areas we need to look at it by separating it. Can we actually measure it or are we guessing at the data?
When we measure an output from a process, we can use metrics to gauge if the result is aligned with the expectation the process or procedure is to deliver. By having data points to compare we can then evaluate rather than guess. When we start to look at a particular way a person effects a process or procedure then judgement can start to influence and get in the way of actual contribution or performance evaluation.
As a collegiate sports official there are very high expectations by coaches, players, fans, and officiating partners that we not only know the rules and how to apply them but also have clean and consistent application of each rule to the sport being officiated. In some sports there are some rules which I would refer to as straight forward. They do not require any judgement on behalf of the official. Other rules require a personal application of judgement to apply the rule to the sport/game. The same is very true in business as well. A process or procedure has defined elements and can be metrically measured. The particular style by which a person may execute the process could vary widely. As leaders we need to make sure we are managing what is measurable vs. guessing at personal preferences.
As we move forward in 2023, we need to keep a solid focus and alignment on continuously improving all aspects of the transactional elements of the business such as the processes and procedures. We also need to improve on how we apply our judgement to the not so easily measurable items – the personal dynamics of the business. Relating back to the officiating model for a moment, each game officiated needs to have a consistent application of judgement from the very first decision made to the very last decision made. If you call a violation in the very first few seconds of the game, then the same violation must be called at the last seconds of the same game regardless of impact on game completion. This consistent neutral judgement becomes the hallmark of great officials because the coaches and players know exactly what and how to advance their playing style in that game. (A side note here is that fans will never see it the way an official sees it) It now becomes a game where the talent of the athletes and their ability to execute define the game not the rules.
This week as you explore improving your business and yourself, look at your ability to be consistent in the application of working with your team, clients, vendors etc. so that you can more effectively build a relationship that goes beyond the repetitive transactional event. By moving to a management view vs. a guessing view you will allow for individual style to exist while still producing the deliverable desired.
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