I’m currently in Belfast, Ireland doing some work (and some not-work). It’s tough, but someone has to do it. Yesterday, a friend of mine took me to a gym so I could run. Next to me, on a different treadmill, was a young woman in her mid-twenties, I’d say. She finished running a bit before me. As she got off the treadmill, she made her way to the scale to weigh herself. I watched her take a deep breath and step on. By the way, she wasn’t fat in the least.
She got on the scale, looked down and just stared. About 30 seconds later, she stepped off the scale, took her shoes off and stepped back on. Inwardly, I laughed because I’ve done the very same thing. I felt like yelling out to her, "That’s not going to do it for you."
As I refocused on my run, I began to think about how easy it is to fall into the trap of taking off our shoes. When I fall into the "taking off the shoes dysfunction" I thinks like this:
If I take off my shoes, I weigh less.
Of course, this isn’t true. I weigh exactly the same, whether my shoes are on or off. But, taking off my shoes makes the scale go down–and that makes me feel better. Trouble is, it’s a false measurement.
In life, and in organizations, it’s easy to feel good about measurements that don’t matter.
For example, take a leader who’s doing a big "sales job" on her team about a not so good idea. The team doesn’t say anything negative about leader’s idea (spouted out in a meeting), so she assumes they like it. Actually though, the team didn’t just avoid negative comments about the idea, they didn’t say anything at all about the idea. The truth is, no one wanted to challenge the leader because no one wanted to fight her. But she goes on her way convinced the silence (the metric) was a positive metric of acceptance. But, it wasn’t. That’s like taking off your shoes to weigh less.
So, what metric might you, or your organization, be all excited about that really don’t matter at all?