Tears shouldn’t be a personal KPI

Joanna sees her fair share of tears. Tears due to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and missed opportunities. Tears because the definition of success is so wildly different from managers’ KPIs. Not being aligned on the personal KPIs is a path to disaster for both employee and manager.

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My team asks me frequently if I’ve made someone cry that week. They believe it’s a valid measure of my success and in turn, the success of the business. If there are no tears then I’m probably not doing my best work.

I know weird. Don’t worry, it’s usually happy tears. Usually.

The question did, however, get me thinking about the whole idea of measures of success. In almost every business scenario I’ve seen (or at least the successful ones) have had key performance indicators (KPIs) that clearly outline what we should be measuring and why. John Doerr even wrote a whole book about the topic, Measure What Matters. He calls them OKRs, but we’re all talking about the same thing.

  • What is the goal?
  • How do you measure progress towards that goal?

If you think about it, we, as people have KPIs too. I have a whole bevy of friends who post race times and distances. Do a quick google search on me and you’ll learn I have a relationship with the scale and the number that it shows that could be defined as unhealthy. We ALL look at our bank accounts and pay stubs. (Don’t get me started about the whole “quantified self” movement …)


Some examples to spark the imagination:

  • If you’re aspiring to leadership, how many people get promoted you’ve mentored?
  • If you’re in client support, do you have a service rating you’re aiming for?
  • If you’re leading a team, do you want to maintain/reach a specific employee satisfaction level?

I’m sure you can figure out what YOUR measure of success is and have a pretty good idea of how you’re doing.

Are you doing ok? That’s what those measures of success are supposed to do, they’re supposed to tell you if you’re on track. Helpful right?

Let’s take this further, beyond the “setting your goals” talk. Does your boss know your personal KPI? I’d take a wild guess that they have one for you. Are they the same? Even if you’re 100% sure you know the answers to these questions I’d recommend a chat with your manager to make sure.

I have seen a TON of tears this week. Tears due to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and missed opportunities. My clients’ definition of success has been so wildly different from their managers’ KPIs. The employee is not the only one to blame. If you lead a team, this is a conversation you should have with your team members too.

Not being aligned on the personal KPIs is a path to disaster for both employee and manager.

And just in case you’re worried that I spend my days lugging around a box of Kleenex waiting to move my “score” up. Don’t worry, that’s not my measure of success. Mine is getting emails from former clients telling me they applied the concepts we discussed, telling me that the results helped them reach their goals. I got three of those this week. My measure of success is to increase that number, increase it to a lot more than three a week.

There are big things coming down the pipe at Team Ladybadass. Want to be one of the first to know? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll keep you posted.

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