14 December 2009

It's About People

We got some great discussions going on the previous post, and I'd like to continue talking about one particular point. Specifically, the human side of this thing.

When I first read the "Red is good, green is worthless" article, the part that really stuck in my head was the horrifying scene where a group of employees was described as going from "proud and excited" to "devastated," thanks to a brief comment by Mr. Watanabe.

Now, I don't know if that actually happened. With all due respect to my friends in journalism, I am well aware that reports of events aren't always accurate (and as a writer myself, I'm sure I've mis-written a scene or two). But whether it happened quite that way or not, the writer was clearly holding it up as a sign of Mr. W's keen insight and wisdom, his ability to see through the "worthless" status report and identify a hidden problem.

Let me be clear - the scene as written describes a travesty, a failure of leadership that most likely has negative implications for the organization - and certainly had a negative impact on the people involved. A good leader - a real leader - would have recognized his employee's enthusiasm and figured out a way to redirect it as necessary, without emotionally violating the people. They would have walked away with energy, direction and insight. And if he did leave them feeling devastated (deflated, demoralized, disrespected), the real story would have been the way he acknowledged and made amends for his mistake.

See, leadership and management isn't about metrics, stoplight charts, production rates or even profits. It's about people. It's about taking care of them, encouraging, empowering and equipping them. I don't think it's much of a stretch to say it's about loving them. And it really bugs me to see a story about a "leader" who puts people down (aka a tyrant) being used to show how wise and insightful that leader is. It's even worse when the writer glibly glosses over the scene where people get hurt, and instead focuses on which color he likes better.

Bottom line: the real lesson in that story has nothing to do with metrics and everything to do with love.

1 comment:

Gabe said...

I wonder if Richard Branson keeps metrics?

I think most companies or organizations can push the house keeping of measuring their goals down to the local level. A centrally controlled metric repository operated on my the heads of the organization isn't required and I think counterproductive. From my experience, metrics become enticing and leaders often fixate on them to the neglect of the people carrying out the actions defined by the metrics. This in turn creates the atmosphere of tyranny. Metrics can be useful, but there's more to leadership than just measuring.