How do you know if you’re on track to achieve your goals? For most of us, when it comes to our personal lives, we need some type of data. You look at bank statements to analyze savings. You look at the scale for weight loss. Because it’s hard enough to achieve goals, an easy tracking system is imperative. Can you imagine trying to drive and keep track miles instead of looking at a gas gauge?

Good leaders set clear goals and then immediately put systems into place to easily track progress. I would never expect you to lose weight while I hid your scale. But this happens all the time at work. Employees are reprimanded and punished for failing to meet murky, undefined goals without the systems in place to help them measure those goals. And many leaders default to the worst metric of all: the time an employee spends in the office.  

My own team is always on the go. They are training, running workshops and events, and attending meetings. All of those activities are tracked in a database and reported out in a dashboard. Often, other leaders will joke and say, “I never see your team. Are they even working?” Looking at someone is not an indication of success. It’s not a performance metric nor a way to manage. If I tune into a basketball game and see one team scoring a basket, should I assume they are winning or check the scoreboard?

What employees need now are performance management systems. These systems give employees trust, autonomy, and flexibility. With real time data, teams can also innovate together and quickly test the viability of changes. In great teams, employees help to build and maintain these systems. In great teams, performance is an ongoing conversation and the team works together to define success and hold each other accountable. All these attributes add up to the biggest perk of all: a high performing team. And high performing teams create a high performing, high trust government.

Crisis has forced us to reexamine our old modes of working. For the next generation of leaders, success will come to those who know how to use technology with performance management. To those who can tell you the true numbers on the scale and set their employees free down the path of autonomy, trust, and work life balance. Anything less lacks the leadership needed for this next generation to flourish in a forever changed world. Refusing to change will cost us talent, morale, service quality, and progress. Adapting to change will unleash a new era of better government.

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