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The Game of Work

Ready for a pop quiz?

I know you haven’t had time to study, but I’m confident that you’ll pass.  The good news is that there is only one question, here it is: “What would the average American say is more motivating and fun; Work or Sports?”

The answer is obvious – the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, March Madness, the World Series and other sporting events draw millions of spectators each year.  How many people showed up last year to cheer on you at work?

Have you ever wondered why sports are so motivating?  In fact, not only are they motivating to the players but also to spectators.  Can you imagine people – fans – coming to watch you work?  Paying for the privilege of seeing you in action.  One of the key reasons sports are stimulating is that in sports we keep score.

Scorekeeping is the heart of athletics.  Scores, measurements and stats are tracked and used to determine success.  At any point during a sporting event every player, every coach, every fan knows exactly where their team stands.  This information provides a base of knowledge upon which further decisions can be made in order to be successful.  In other words, scorekeeping lets us know if what we’re doing is effective. Too often in business we fail to keep score.  Without keeping score, without some objective measure we cannot know for certain if we are effective.

Way back In the 1960’s Frederick Herzberg, an industrial psychologist, set out to determine what motivates people in the workplace.   He conducted over 2,000 studies and observations and narrowed his findings.  His research uncovered the top two workplace motivators as Achievement and Recognition.

Consider how that finding impacts your role if you’re in management.  Based on this research a critical aspect of your role becomes helping your people accomplish things and then recognizing them when they do.

Regardless of whether you are in management or are an entrepreneur, I contend that the only way to know if one is achieving is through measurement.  Let’s take sports again as an example.  I happen to live in East Lansing, Michigan, home of the NCAA Basketball Champion Spartans, so we’ll use basketball as a specific example.  If we were to eliminate the backboard, the hoop, and the scoreboard, so that there is no way to measure success, how exciting would that be?  Ten players on the court with a ball – wow!

And yet there is a movement in society today to do just that.  In an effort to have everyone feel good about themselves measurement is being eliminated.  The public school system is one example.  There is a new approach being tested that is designed to build students self-esteem by eliminating tests, scores, and grades.

Interestingly, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal a number of years back that compared this new style of instruction with direct instruction.  Direct instruction is where tests are administered, scores are tabulated, and grades are given.  The results of the comparison are notable: the students schooled in direct instruction scored higher academically, (not surprising), and they also scored better on self-esteem evaluations.  That’s right, the students that were “graded” felt better about themselves.  The reason is simple; without measurement it is difficult, if not impossible to know when you’re achieving.  Self-esteem and confidence are all about achievement.  The bottom line is that scorekeeping not only improves performance, but it also builds confidence.


Although individual businesses vary there are common indicators that one can measure, here are three:

  1. EXECUTION – The biggest barrier to high performance, whether you are an entrepreneur or part of a large company, is poor execution. Ultimately, execution is about doing the things you know you need to do. Establish a system to measure your individual execution on a weekly basis.  The Weekly Plan & Scorecard is designed for that purpose.  It is an accurate reflection of how well you did what you said was most important.  If you are leading a company, then also measure the strategic execution of your team.  Keep in mind that effective execution is not about perfection.  You don’t need to be perfect, just consistent and persistent.  Typically, if you and your organization score 85% or better you will achieve your objectives.
  2. RESULTS – Develop key measures that are accurate indicators of your end results. Establish a tracking system and post these measures daily if possible, weekly and monthly. If you are a solopreneur, typical results measures might include customer or prospect counts, proposals, business closed, business paid, and conversion ratio.  Common results measures for a company might include sales, costs of sales, profit, employee turnover, quality, production, etc.
  3. CUSTOMER STATS – It is critical that you measure customer satisfaction and loyalty on an on-going basis. Find out what your customers like and what they don’t like about your product or service. Solicit feedback on ways in which you can improve.  Inquire about areas that may be inconvenient, difficult or confusing.  Track repeat business and referrals.  There is a direct link between customer satisfaction and long-term profitability.  Moreover, low scores are a clear signal that something needs to change.  Use this valuable feedback to enhance and refine your deliverables.

There is a saying: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”  Measurement is an indispensable component of success.  Measurement serves as the reality check.  The items you choose to measure will create focus, accountability and motivation.  Get in the game, start measuring and scoring your performance.