Don’t rely solely on benchmarks

 In Current Trends

Benchmarks can be that consistent presence in a world of change.

That’s a comforting thought to many. And it should be! And to others, it’s a sign of stodgy rhetoric that’s seen its heyday.  And that’s a good sign too.

Ok, then. What to do?

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Evaluate benchmarks with a grain of salt. Flip them upside down and give them a good shake. See what sticks. For those of us who don’t deem ourselves early adopters, fans of change, or “against the grain” type folk, questioning the comfortable is a hard ask.

But if you want to be among the few who truly contribute and add value to your work, you need to get comfortable working with some gray area (a different topic altogether) and you need to be OK with questioning the norm.

There’s no harm in asking why, and those who raise defiance to your why, instead of entertaining a healthy conversation, are those who are averse to giving up control and enabling change. And that paralyzing attitude trickles downstream quickly.

So here’s to embracing change and adding value.

The following are three ways you can shake things up and rethink your current situation. These practices will enable your employees to stop going with the flow and start evaluating and implementing metrics and methods that truly keep the company, and its mission, top-of-mind:

Initiate Liminal Thinking.

David Gray from the company Xplane, a design consultancy, has written the book on liminal thinking.

“Liminal Thinking is the art of creating change by understanding, shaping, and reframing beliefs.”

Okay, so this isn’t a tactic you can use overnight to shake things up. But it’s an important aspect of a company culture that is willing to put its best foot forward for the sake of the mission, its people and, yes, the ever-enticing dollar. And it’s a phenomenal practice for you, Ms/Mr. Employee, to bring to the table at your next planning session.

The bottom line here is this is a way to teach you how to “live in the moment” by shutting off your autopilot. This tool combats the “this is how we’ve always done things” syndrome.

For those who want a bit more psychology, check out the thinking on cognitive dissonance, as these topics, in my opinion, are linked.

Don’t pay based on performance.

Say what now? You read that right.

Don’t take my word for it. Take Harvard Business Review’s word for it. They published an article this February supporting the clause,

“… performance-based pay can actually have dangerous outcomes for companies that implement it.”

And if you’ll let me, I’ll say an “amen”.

Don’t think this is because my paycheck has never been fulfilled by “reaching my quota” or “achieving my personal KPIs”.  Perhaps I’m slightly jaded, but I have seen managers and employees in this position do what’s best for them. And sometimes that’s a win-win for the company.

But most of the time, it’s not.

And over time, this attitude and practice does not create a healthy, collaborative environment. Rather,  it creates a sustainable environment when the company is doing well, and it creates a highly stressful, reactive environment when the going gets rough.

A great quote from the article:

“There is abundant evidence that people will be most creative when they are primarily intrinsically motivated, rather than extrinsically motivated by expected evaluation, surveillance, competition with peers, dictates from superiors, or the promise of rewards.”

Wouldn’t you want intrinsically motivated team players as a part of your workforce? Think about the work ethic they bring to the table. I’m not saying that healthy competition from time to time is a bad thing, but I wouldn’t bet my business model on it.

Embrace a start-up mentality.

If not for your company, then perhaps your team can lead the way here. Most importantly, this means, make room for mistakes. When you’re evaluating the benchmarks you believe will help you pace out innovation and encourage you to progress forward, realize that you will have to slip and backup along the way.

Build this into your plan. Identify these metrics with hypothesizes, not bold statements of truth.

If you bake this thinking into your growth plans, then you’ve already set the expectation that you are a team willing to experiment, learn and iterate in order to put the best metrics in place. Read more about this thought in this Forbes article.

Take heart, you are not alone. There are many before you and there will be many after you, who will continue to push for change and innovation for the sake of offering the best products, solutions, and services.

As the Forbes article states, let’s learn to:

“Communicate to your people that the process and effort are just as important as the result. As Thomas Edison said on his path to inventing the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

If you need help processing the above or initiating change, we can do that. Let me know what you’re thinking.

Image above taken from Liminal Thinking Images on Flickr.

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