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Are You Measuring What Truly Matters Or Settling For What Is Easy?

Why confusing the two is a recipe for regret. Plus how you can avoid it.

New York Times

Read Time: 4 minutes 15 seconds

As a parent, there are a few moments when you magically line up an experience to match the apex of your child's interests.

A few years back, we managed to get our kids to Happy Potter World just as they finished devouring the books.

Note for new parents: planting realistic Hogwarts invitation scrolls of parchment in their rooms and playing owl sounds from your phone might seem like a good idea, but the come down from learning they're not a witch is pretty rough.

Flash forward a few years, and now a real magician has landed in the US:

Lionel Messi

Only a year removed from leading Argentina to victory in the World Cup, he now plays soccer for Inter Miami CF. And he's started his time in the MLS by leading the last-place team to the final of the League's Cup.

And with a ball always at her foot, our oldest daughter has never been into the beautiful game.

Tuesday night, the stars aligned, and the two of us road-tripped to Philadelphia to see the man in person.

And. He. Delivered.

Magically, our seats allowed my daughter to see that goal from over his shoulder. To see the moment as he saw it.

Her look of astonishment said what we were all thinking:

“How?”

So what does this magical moment with my daughter have to do with measuring what matters at work?

How could it be worth 28x?

We just opened our last MGMT Accelerator cohort of 2023.

Starting October 5th, we’ll once again bring together 50 high-performing leaders from brand names like Amazon & Google and startups aspiring to join their ranks. Together, we’ll build out the eight foundational systems that drive high-performing teams.

Our previous cohort said it was worth 28 times what they paid. Where else can you get that ROI for 12 hours of your time? Please join us!

Outcomes vs. Effort

One of the first things that shocks you when you see Messi play is how much he walks.

It's not occasional. It's the majority of the time time.

But when he turns it on, it's otherworldly. The smallest guy on the pitch has the biggest burst. Is it because he's conserved energy when others didn't? Did he lull them into losing track of him because of his lack of movement?

It's hard to know, but the outcomes he produces are second to none. And he does it despite every team knowing he's the one they need to stop.

But as a manager, how would we handle this situation?

Would we rather have a sales rep putting in the effort of 100 calls or the other who can make one and close the deal?

The answer seems obvious, but is it?

  • If everyone were walking the pitch, the team would likely get blown out.

  • What about the culture? Is allowing a double standard reasonable?

  • Outcomes are fickle. What if the goals stop?

And taken to its extreme, this same logic is how leaders can rationalize allowing a high-performing but toxic employee to stick around.

But treating everyone equally is a lazy leader’s cop-out.

Treat everyone fairly? Yes.

But if you optimize for perfectly equal, you settle for perfectly mediocre.

Where leaders stumble is confusing the two.

Let’s make it tangible. I often hear from executives that I coach that their feedback “isn't getting through."

When I ask them for examples, I find they drifted away from having the hard conversation about goals and into the easier one about effort.

The two reasons this happens:

The good reason: Effort is 100% in their control. Outcomes sometimes aren’t. Fixating on what we can’t control is a recipe for burnout.

The bad reason: Effort is easier to measure. But unless we deeply understand which effort causes the desired outcome, we can trick ourselves into thinking motion is momentum.

Regret Minimization

Popularized by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, can you simplify any decision by answering one question:

Would my 80-year-old self regret not doing this?

This played out in this decision for me at multiple levels.

The tickets were not cheap. They weren't Taylor Swift ludicrous, but they were still a luxury by any standard. But would my 80-year-old self be grateful I skipped this road trip for a few hundred dollars? Unlikely.

The other level of regret: Time.

Sure, they're not making more of it, but once your kids are teenagers, you really start counting:

  • How many summer vacations together are left?

  • How many late-night ocean swims?

  • How many games of H.O.R.S.E.?

As those numbers get smaller, the choice of what matters becomes crystal clear.

And having been kids ourselves at one point, the same dynamics are true of time with our parents.

This matters for your team in three meaningful ways:

  1. Having a larger purpose in your life creates an allergic reaction to nonsense at work. You will make room for only the essential.

  2. If you're not making room in your life for what matters, you will not be able to lead to your full potential. By cheating yourself, you shortchange your team. "You can't pour from an empty cup."

  3. They are watching your example, not listening to your words. If you don't show them the courage to prioritize what matters, they won't feel empowered to say ‘No’ either.

Measure Everything. Measure Nothing.

Want to measure what matters? Force yourself to give everyone a number.

Not a dashboard. One number.

Not some key producers. Everyone.

This is one of the most clarifying aspects of the Entrepreneurial Operating System. That no matter the role, you can have a well-thought-out and measurable target to encourage the most important behaviors.

The benefits of this concept accrue to both sides of the ledger.

For the leader, you:

For the employee, they get to have a north star that is

  • Clear

  • Measurable

  • Connected to the mission

There’s as much insight in picking the right numbers as there is in chasing them.

Even if that chase is mostly a walk.

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Thank you for reading. Appreciate you!

Dave

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