One of earliest tools I learned how to use growing up on a farm was a tape measure. There are several reasons for that – it is often used, using it won’t hurt you (think hammer, saw, or torch!), and my Dad carried a small one in his pocket.
And as a boy, emulating Dad was always a good idea.
I don’t use a tape measure every day now, and you don’t likely either, but the idea of measuring progress and success is at least as important to us as leaders as the tape measure is to a carpenter or designer. Yet while most organizations ask their employees to set goals, and provide tools and guidance to set them, there is less support and tools for measuring progress towards those goals.
Consider this article as part of your toolkit to solve that problem. What follows are six tangible things that we can do as leaders to support and help our teams reach their goals by measuring progress towards them.
Set Clear Targets
While you have likely heard and been taught that goals should be specific and measurable, they aren’t always. When goals are set, you can improve their ability to be reached by making sure the targets are clear. There are additional benefits beyond measurement, but for our purposes, if the target isn’t clear it is hard to measure against it.
Back to our tape measure – to use those successfully, you must know the starting point and the destination – the same should be true for the goals you set. Once the target is clear, you know what you are measuring towards.
Think Process and Results
Some goals are easy to measure progress against – a sales or revenue target is like a weight goal. You have the numbers to gauge progress frequently. Not all goals are that easily quantified, and often this is where people (including leaders) throw up their hands. Even if the goal is harder to measure, it doesn’t mean you can’t measure it. You can set targets for, and measure against, the process if you can’t directly or easily measure the result.
For example, a results measure for a sales person might be revenue, and a process measure might be number of sales calls made. A number of calls made doesn’t automatically equate to hitting a revenue target, but it is likely an important component of reaching that goal.
If you can help people identify the steps in the process toward their goals, you will often find valuable ways to measure progress.
While this may not be exactly about measuring progress per se, it is a critical component of greater goal achievement. The more often people review their goals, and the more often they are reminded of their targets, the more progress they will make. This applies to individuals looking at their goals and progress, as well as planned portions of meetings regularly reviewing progress. The time invested in reviewing goals pays big dividends, and as a leader you are the point person for making this happen.
Make it Public
You’ve likely seen a community fund drive (think United Way) post a progress billboard. This public display of progress does two things – it informs people, but it also prods and encourages people to move closer to the stated goal. You can use this same approach with your team. Are you posting progress in some way so people know where they stand?
If you have a team of people working towards the same goal, strongly consider posting the targets, and weekly or monthly progress towards them. Posting those measurements in a public place will also fire the competitive juices of people to be a bit more disciplined and a bit more focused to move themselves up the leaderboard as they do their daily work.
Static measures of progress are great. But often people look at daily, weekly or monthly numbers and don’t look at the trends. Looking at individual numbers is fine, but when you put them in context by charting progress over the days, weeks or months, people can see real progress. Is the trend line moving in the right direction?
If your company’s software tools allow for these trends to be created through reporting, great, but it not, help people build simple spreadsheets that they can update themselves. This small effort keeps people more in tune with the numbers and often creates greater ownership for the results and their progress.
Since you will be looking at trends, the next logical step is to annualize the progress to project where you will end up. If you are at 80% of your goal in April, it is likely you will make your goal, but are you thinking about how much you might surpass it by (or what new target you might set?) Are their circumstances or seasonality that needs to be taken into account? Once you start tracking trends, add some estimating and projecting into your measurement processes. It will spur increased effort and perhaps heighten excitement and engagement as well.
None of these things are as simple as pulling out a tape measure, but they are powerful ways for us to make sure we are getting the results we want and maximizing the potential and effort of our team members. And isn’t that our job as a leader?