It seems that someone is always keeping score.
- Conversations about projects focus on outcomes, deliverables, and take-aways.
- We’re asked “can you beat yesterday’s numbers? Or last week’s time? Or last year’s results?”
- Incentive programs encourage us to do more, go faster, be better.
We say we’re tracking progress but we are really constantly measuring results.
Professionally and personally we’ve always got our eye on the size of the prize.
The need to measure the outcome can obscure a crucial element of performance — the importance of knowing the starting point.
No matter what the endeavor no two of us experience things in precisely the same way.
- Two new hires at a major corporation assigned to share the same office will experience their first 90 days on the job very differently.
- Each of three staff members assigned to the same assistant will feel they are getting a different level of support from that very same person.
- The top performers on a sales team may consist of the same small group of people each year but their relative rank will vary over time.
If you are thinking that any number of factors can contribute to these differences you are completely right.
Are things weighing on you? Was it a really rough weekend? Do you have a sick child at home? Has the elderly parent you care for just gone into the hospital?
Or perhaps you’re really on a roll. Did you just close the biggest sale you’ve ever closed? Is a new member on your team really making a great contribution?
Both internal and external factors matter. Which is why making a regular practice of incorporating knowledge about the start brings such power. The more you know the more you can adjust and the more you can potentially control.
So what do you need to know and how hard is it to find out?
Happily, you can get the information you need to really impact both your experience and results with a simple check-in.
Ask yourself “how are you?” as you plan what is coming up. See what strikes you first when you think about how things are going.
You can make this inquiry as big or as small as you want to depending on your priorities at any given time. Adjust your focus according to the task in question.
You can dramatically change the course of the upcoming day at work by checking-in with yourself during your commute. Do you feel great or really bad? Should you expect your best effort or something rather less? Are you showing up in peak form ready to have a record day? Or is that an unreasonable expectation.
Five minutes reflecting on “how are you?” brings the answer to these questions and allows you to choose your responses and expectations accordingly.
The same reflection benefits the team leader trying to keep a major project on time and on budget. More resources, different personnel and/or creative strategies may be the best choice at any given point. A check-in about the starting point — “how are things going” – provides information crucial to deciding what is needed. This information can come as easily from a short, solitary reflection about the project undertaken in a quiet moment as from an off-site, full day, full team progress meeting.
Make it a practice to conduct this check-in regularly and consistently. The more you do it the easier it will become.
Every task, every journey, every progression has both a beginning and an end. Inform yourself about your starting point and harness that knowledge for a better trip.