Fitness trackers are ubiquitous. It seems everyone has one wrapped around their wrist. Many include other functions, mine is a watch, but the attraction to them is their fitness tracking capabilities. When something like this becomes part of the current culture, those of us that write about management and leadership tend to start looking for comparisons to our chosen field of study. This is no different. It has us thinking about managers who are the equivalent of fitness trackers. By the way, they are usually poor managers.
Like a fitness tracker, the poor manager is focused solely on activity. How many calls did you make? How many customer complaints were resolved this week? How many hours did you spend in the office yesterday? Why do poor managers focus on these things? Because if you have a hard time understanding high performance and what it looks like, you have to rely on what’s easy to measure. And that happens to be activity.
So what’s wrong with measuring activity as an indicator of performance? Let’s go back to the fitness tracker comparison and ask another question. Have you ever seen a fitness tracker strapped to the wrist of an overweight or out of shape person? Of course you have. In fact many of those people have been wearing their trackers for a number of years. So why aren’t they in shape? Easy, simply measuring the activity you are doing isn’t going to change your fitness level. You have to understand what it takes to get in shape and then do those things.
Making 100 sales calls per day will not help you reach your goal if every one of those people hang up on you within the first few seconds. People who work late are not necessarily your best employees either. In fact, so many managers use this metric as a measurement of performance that there are books and websites devoted to slacking off at work so you can look good. Tips include such things as scheduling your emails to be sent late at night so it appears as though you are working extra, and keeping a half eaten sandwich or piece of fruit on your desk so it seems as though you didn’t have time for lunch. Crazy, I know, but it happens.
What should managers do if they don’t want to fall into the activity tracking habit? It really boils down to a few key concepts:
- Work with your employees to set clear expectation about what needs to be accomplished and by when.
- Have regular 1-1 meetings with your employees to surface any issues they need to escalate and get your input on.
- Give feedback about what’s working and what’s not working.
- Trust that your people want to do a good job, and even if they don’t take the same path you would take to achieve the results, know that they will get to the results.
- Model the behaviors you want to see from your people.
If you do these simple things and then manage to the exceptions rather than spending your time monitoring activity, I think you’ll find that not only will your employees be more engaged and satisfied, but that you will also find that you’ve found an additional hour or two each day or, at least week, that you can use to focus on other critical issues that will help move the business forward.
That’s all for now. My fitness tracker just told me it’s time to stand up.