How is your organization measuring your performance as a leader? Do you know what success looks like?
This was one of the first questions I asked William*, a VP at an engineering firm, when we started working together.
William had very strong technical skills and years of experience with his company. As the company grew he was promoted up the ranks and eventually found himself responsible for a large and growing team. The business had done remarkably well in response to market conditions, but a newly hired COO wanted the leadership team to be more deliberate about its success.
As William and I dove into the big question, it became clear that he was a reactive leaders and had never been tasked with meeting clear business objectives, nor was he previously held accountable to measurable outcomes. In other words, he was not able to answer the big question and had no concrete idea how his performance as a leader was being measured.
It’s worth mentioning that William is not alone – many of the leaders I work with have a hard time answering the big question and this says more about the organizations they work for than it does about them. The problem is, even if an organization doesn’t explicitly share how they measure your performance, they are measuring it!
As the new COO began introducing clear business objectives to the team, William and I worked on converting these business objectives into specific responsibilities for his team and accountabilities, or deliverables, for him. If one of the business objectives was limiting budget overage to 5%, we explored how William’s team directly contributed to this. And by extension, we talked about what William would be held accountable for when it came time to assess his team’s overall performance.
It was critical to confirm that William was on the right track, so we also considered how he’d validate his accountabilities. William decided the most appropriate step was to check in directly with the COO. This ended up being a productive exercise as, together, they tweaked some of the deliverables and William got to hear first hand, and 1:1, what was most important to the COO. William came away from these relationship-building interactions with a clear sense of how he was going to be measured and what success, in the COO’s eyes, looked like.
When reflecting on his biggest takeaway from our sessions, William said it was pretty simple: if you don’t ask, you don’t know. He went on to say that the COO confided in him that William was the only leader who proactively asked for feedback on his deliverables. The COO was surprised, and a little disappointed, that others had not come forward.
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*Names and some organization details have been changed to protect the privacy of my clients.