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Part 2 of Bad Manager Series

Bad managers know their numbers! The Problem is they’re wrong!

Bad Managers are convinced of their numbers. So why is this such a big deal? The problem is that they are WRONG. Now don’t get me wrong, they can count, much like my 6-year-old. But what they have a powerful combination of 2 things that should never mix: (like ice cream and pickles) Certainty and Ignorance. They are sure about something they do not know how to interpret. Numbers in the hands of those without understanding can do a lot of damage. They can tear down instead of building up a team, organization, and business. Have you ever sat for a performance review and been criticized over a metric that had no meaning or real bearing on the quality of your work whatsoever? Many have! I remember when I was working phone sales at a call center and being personally being giving stern direction on how my productivity numbers seemed to wane during one hour of the day and was made aware that this was a problem that both my supervisor and his boss noticed. Was my supervisor wrong? No, he was not. Was he useful? Absolutely not. So, you might ask, what was the problem? Just this: my average daily productivity exceeded that of my peers significantly even with that unavoidable dip in performance. I skipped lunches and pushed through while my peers didn’t. Often the average call volume of my peers landed in the range of 35-55 calls per day, while I averaged 90-100 and sometimes 115.

Because they looked to validate some concern they were bringing TO the numbers, instead of letting the numbers narrate the story and then formulating next steps from there. They inadvertently discouraged a hardworking, high performer and reinforced the idea that if I slow down and all my hourly output numbers are diminished, then it may remove the target I had on my back! Because they didn’t know how to compare, frame, and get the proper perspective on the numbers they had access to, they used the information in such a way that it would’ve been better if they ignored the numbers all together. They had access to detailed and high-level analytics and used it much like a child standing on a next gen laptop to reach to cookie jar. Good people, good intentions, weak managers, bad with numbers. Have you ever been in a similar situation? On either side of that equation?

The takeaway: If you want to avoid being a bad manager, then you must put repetition into learning and being able to identify and highlight the metrics that both matter and are within your team’s ability to control. Prolific statisticians and educators like W Edwards Deming attempted decades ago to help managers and industry leaders to look differently at their numbers and how it relates to their people’s performance. His work left an indelible impression for any willing to heed it. Second point: identify whether it is the system of work, or the person in control of the metric you are measuring, good or bad. If a team member gets praise for something they personally feel was a fluke and out of their control, you will not be encouraging pride of workmanship, you will be encouraging self-doubt and insecurity. Likewise, if they get penalized for an outcome the system, they work in controlled and not themselves, discouragement will build, and the group culture will suffer. Managers must work on the system and not expect the employee to be responsible for changing or improving it.

Follow those principles and you can escape the trap of bad management by bad metrics!

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