Ten calls and ten straight customer hang ups. That’s what it took for “Tom” to acknowledge that his French skills were grossly insufficient. Tom was already hired when I became the manager of a multilingual sales team earlier in my career. As the only French speaker at the company, I was curious how his language skills were tested during the process. The answer was simple: the hiring managers believed that Tom spoke French fluently because Tom believed he spoke French fluently. Since I knew what Tom didn’t know, it took about 2 minutes of conversation for me to realize that he didn’t. Tom, on the other hand, took more convincing before he finally acknowledged that he didn’t know that he hadn’t known his linguistic shortcomings.
There are a lot of aspects to becoming a successful manager or employee. Of these aspects, none is more important than knowing what you need to know. So how do we avoid the pitfall that overtook Tom in this instance and overtakes so many others in different ways? Here’s the simple process that can help keep you in the clear so that you can “Know Like a Boss!”
Define your goals. This is obvious. You need to know what you are aiming to accomplish before you start to accomplish it. Are you looking to increase retention? Are you trying to improve occupancy? Are you trying to recover more unpaid revenue? Whatever the goal, you need to identify it before you can work towards it. Once you’ve defined your goals, determine how you will measure the successful achievement of your goals. Which stats or metrics will identify “success?”
Understand where you have been. Generally people are good at defining their future objectives, yet few put them in perspective to where they have been. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” Similarly, those who do not understand the pass are unable to change it. A common symptom of this neglect is the temptation to solve the wrong problems. Find a way to numerically define what you or your team are doing. Don’t just measure “what has been done,” remember to ask “what has NOT been done.”
Form actionable reports. Most people understand the general need for reporting. Performance always improves when results are tracked and reported. Data can be tricky in many ways. It can be hard to find reliable data and reliable data can be even harder to translate into action. When you develop your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you should be able to answer the following questions in the affirmative:
- What does this number show me?
- How do I know if this number is good or bad?
- If the number is bad, is there an obvious action that I can take to improve it?
- Is this number comparable across multiple usages?
Course correct. Just like good companies, good managers never settle. They are always looking for new data and new information so that they can improve their performance. The more they look, the more they begin to know what they didn’t know before. As they do this, they are able to make course corrections and stay on top of their performance in cyclical fashion.
What other processes have worked for you? Let us know in the comments.