Numbers, metrics, and statistics are the language of management; we all speak in terms of numbers. We use numbers to help us understand our world. The weakness of numbers is that they are not self-defining. Numbers without a context, without a basis for comparison mean very little.
When a golfer steps on the tee what does she want to know? How far to the pin and what’s the par for this hole? When you step on the scale, you look at the number. What do you do next? Without a moment’s hesitation you compare today’s number to yesterday’s weight.
If you have done a reasonable job of selection, everyone on your team wants to win. Everyone wants in some way to experience that winning feeling. Your job, an extremely important part of all engaging leaders, is to help your team experience this winning feeling.
Numbers help you dramatize your ideas— Leadership Principle #9: Dramatize Your Ideas.
Numbers help throw down a challenge— Leadership Principle #10: Stimulate Competition.
Numbers properly used provide an opportunity to provide acknowledgement— Leadership Principle #4: Provide Acknowledgment. All winners want to know “how am I doing?”
Soon after graduating from high school I bought a 1952 Chevrolet convertible. The body was customized and it was powered by a ’55 Chevrolet V-8 engine and transmission. Unfortunately the speedometer cable wouldn’t connect to the transmission. I moved to Cleveland, Ohio and made the commute home to Ann Arbor, Michigan many weekends over the next couple of years. On those long drives home, though I tried to follow traffic, I know I yielded to the temptation to push it many times. Everything would be okay until a policeman started to follow me and then I would break out in a cold sweat. That was when I realized firsthand the fear, frustration and anxiety which can be caused when you “don’t know the score.” I needed the feedback from my speedometer in order to feel in control as I tackled the road ahead. (Excerpt from InFormation, pg. 124)
If your team doesn’t know the score, their score, how can they know how they are doing? They are powerless; they have no personal power. The only way they can know is if and when you tell them. Often, this feedback still lacks context. Your feedback may not mean as much as you’d like for it to mean.
What do you want to know? You want to know: What is expected of me? What are my top priorities? What do you want me to achieve? What results do you expect of me? You can’t be too clear about your expectations. Numbers add clarity to expectations and provide a foolproof way to keep score.