Cross-Functional Learning


Our well-rounded business content is designed for Leaders & Managers to implement change with ease & improve accountability amongst their teams. Here you'll find Articles from thought leaders in their fields, have access to practical Business Templates, learn new skills & expand on skills you already have. Stay informed & proactive...Join Us Today!

Join Now

A New Leadership Key Performance Indicator

By Joseph Skursky (1447 words)
Posted in Leadership & Teambuilding on July 2, 2013

There are (7) comments permalink

Add to My Toolkit

By Joseph Skursky, President of Market Leader Solutions

The commitment of leadership to principles, standards, and strategic direction cannot be overstated in terms of the critical importance they play in organizational performance. Too many leaders, however, focus on motivational talk with persuasive or even commanding language, while ignoring the most important and influential directive of all…their own actions.


A leader’s actions communicate far more than the words they speak, and rest assured, the organization is paying attention. In fact, the organization will follow what the leader does even more so than what they say; this is where many organizational problems begin.


Following is an example of a leader’s actions conflicting with their words.


Recently I met with a client whose executive team was struggling to be more effective. The partners had conflicting values, which was the primary reason I was called to meet with them. We had everyone in the company complete personality assessments, so I had a lot of information to consider as we prepared for the on-site meetings.


The most glaring of symptoms gathered from the assessments were indicated as:

  • Low employee engagement – more than 40% of the people were not having fun and didn’t care.

  • Top performers, anchor points of the team, were contemplating moving on.


Prior to the event, I sent pre-meeting surveys to the three partners asking soul-searching questions in an effort to understand how they viewed each other and the organization. Only 2 of 3 partners completed the survey, with the Managing Partner being unresponsive. It was no surprise because the 2 partners candidly expressed in their survey responses that the Managing Partner felt as though the “rules” never applied to him.


I knew I had to address this early in the multi-day meetings in order for the Managing Partner to embrace what we discussed.  Otherwise there would be no progress, no solutions and no change…now or ever. Frankly, I was concerned that if I raised the issue too early or too harshly that the entire event could end abruptly with, “Thanks for coming. Enjoy the rest of your time in our city.”


Whatever I had to do next needed to hit the mark effectively…and quickly.  By focusing on one critical principle we were able to achieve a powerful lesson and pivotal moment for the leadership team.


The Principle Established

What began as a preamble to the meetings was the introduction of a principle:

  • If a picture = 1000 words
  • A demonstration = 1000 pictures (a million words)
  • A working model = 1000 demonstrations (a billion words)


After the principle was introduced, we officially started the meetings with clear identification of organizational pain, revealing that their customers were routinely considered second or third priorities. Among all the other organizational pains, this was agreed by all as a high priority to resolve. Since execution often reveals breakdowns or weaknesses in leadership, people, or both, it was important to observe some type of execution in action.


So I issued a challenge to the partner in charge of marketing to conduct 20 surveys from his team by the next morning while we continued our meetings. The first reaction was, “that’s not possible,” which demonstrated:


A-   That leader’s thought limitations in terms of execution ability.


B-   Previously agreed high priority items were given lip service to resolve.


Shockingly, the Managing Partner provided an outstanding solution, and the execution was underway.


Following a break, I had the opportunity to demonstrate how to deliver feedback (apply the principle) to the marketing partner in order to setup my move to address the Managing Partner’s disdain of rules and functional leadership behavior as evidenced by not completing the pre-meeting survey.


The Principle Applied

Since I knew the Managing Partner had trust issues, the demonstration to his partner revealed that while addressing tough issues, I would deliver the feedback constructively and gently.


Immediately following the feedback to the marketing partner, we recapped the value of a demonstration just to be sure everyone was clear about the underlying principle involved in what they just saw. Now it was time to address the Managing Partner’s behavior.


We discussed as a group about the low level of employee engagement. Once the Managing Partner stated his concern, wondering why their people aren’t more engaged, the opportunity presented itself to address his behavior. He acknowledged that he often feels like the rules don’t apply to him, which led to the “discovery” that every day he is speaking a million words that keep them disengaged.


Even worse, this has occurred consistently over such a length of time that it, though dysfunctional, has become a working model for the organization. That’s a billion words leading a team in the wrong direction, and is now firmly embedded in the company’s culture.



Right Leadership Messages


Leadership happens no matter what leaders say because people observe, believe, and follow the actions of leaders more than mere words.


If asked, most leaders would quickly and emphatically agree that they want to see the following in their organizations:

  • High standards for execution and customer experiences.
  • Accountability for each and every role.
  • Performance-oriented culture that rewards results instead of tenure or politics.
  • Loyalty and commitment to the company mission.


These are the right leadership messages, but do their daily behaviors exemplify their strong words?


Following are some examples of wrong leadership messages:

  • Demand improvement for quality of hire, but focus more on Key Performance Indicators that track speed to hire.
  • Promote based on tenure or politics versus performance.
  • Expect high performance, but don’t coach for improvement.
  • Insist on higher standards for hiring from HR/recruiting, but don’t track retention and development performance from the hiring manager.
  • Preach customer service excellence, but then make him or herself unavailable to both customers and employees.


If any of these sound familiar within your organization, it might be time for a leadership checkup.


A good place to start is to look at your compensation plans and bonus programs. Do they align with what you “say” you want to see? This is generally the first place – and a very important one – to search for inconsistencies between “talk” and “walk.”



A New Leadership Key Performance Indicator


Leaders are human, which means they will make mistakes. That’s no big deal in itself. The big deal is if they don’t learn quickly from their mistakes.


To drive organizational improvement, think about this as a Top 3 KPI for leaders:


Consistency of leadership behavior aligning with stated goals.


Measure and improve in this area often enough, and you will create a high performing organization.


Every day leaders send millions-, if not billions- of word messages. What messages do you want to communicate? Because you are communicating something, no matter what you say.


{#/pub/images/JosephSkursky.jpg}Written by Joseph Skursky, President of Market Leader Solutions    For almost 20 years, Joseph Skursky has been growing businesses and advising leaders in companies across North America. His model of Leadership, People, and Execution provides a clear roadmap to grow almost any business. It has been field-tested and proven effective for over 9 years. Joseph Skursky helps companies hire with confidence, manage without frustration, and increase both productivity and profitability. His “Hire Hard, Manage Easy” system  has earned the respect of colleagues and clients alike. More importantly, it delivers consistent results.


Do you have a question for Joseph?  Please visit our Human Resources Community, he will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


Did you find this story informative?  We would like the opportunity to keep you up to date on all of our training articles.  Please register for our newsletter so we can do just that.  

Here are some additional training articles you may be interested in: 

At ManagingAmericans.com we encourage members to go in and out of our communities to learn about different areas of business; how to work together, solve problems and improve skills.  Each community details expectations, challenges, success tips, training programs and useful resources. Growing your knowledge base and learning about all areas of business can help you navigate towards success in your career.

Comments (7)

Debbie Ruston posted on: July 5, 2013

Absolutely agree....actions speak far louder than words....it has been said "your actions speak so loud, I can't hear a word you are saying". Be willing to walk the walk of the words you speak....

Reshma Samuel posted on: July 8, 2013

Thanks for sharing this.
[what has been found as an observer in HRD is that oft there are too many expectations from the organisation towards fulfillment- with little leaning on personal-development through one's own efforts outside the organisation; also "rules of engagement" work in one scenario and are not fully-acceptable in another scenario outside work-places- thus, a persona could experience 'chaos within'............ the 'rules' within a relationship/s at work provide for due-support when complied with- its in a macrosense that "leadership" counts for more than often [especially in a global-environ]- and what those "rules" are is what is being earnestly sought every time there is a "Leadership checkup' {or 'change situations'} as stated in your title here ]

Derrick Roberts posted on: July 8, 2013

I believe Leadership what ever the connotations depend on the Individual personality .Every one cant be a Leader , Many are good followers , we also need them.
So let us use whatever martix to fret out there personality Traits in people. Becomes very critical in areas like Aviation - The Captain and Co-Pilot some have to remain co pilot .
In Defence , In Adminstration too. Govt advisors and buecrats -They too need to be assed for critical Leadership Characterists when handling critical Posts. Others wise you can see IT.

Jason Cortel posted on: July 8, 2013

Lead by example seems to be a lost art. More and more examples of poor leadership are starting to cause a disruption to many organizations. While not the most appealing, the phrase "the fish rots from the head down" sums it up pretty well. The sad part is that I believe most of those leaders don't even realize the damage they are doing. I really liked the end of the article "What messages do you want to communicate? Because you are communicating something, no matter what you say." It is a powerful question to keep in mind as you go about your day.

Marcia Zidle, Smart Moves Coach posted on: July 8, 2013

Great article and example o" Leadership happens no matter what leaders say because people observe, believe, and follow the actions of leaders more than mere words."

Brett Williamson posted on: July 8, 2013

Were this insight more clearly recognized by Principles, Owners and CEOs, businesses could operate more effectively. The lack of understanding of the impact of what people do, rather than what they say is the source of much organizational blindness. A lot of effort goes into defining ways to improve business and then strategies to do the same, only to be torpedoed by simple actions of those in leadership roles. The worst of it is they can be completely oblivious to the actions and their consequences. This post captures the essence of the blindness well.

Walther L.F. D'Almeida posted on: July 8, 2013

My perception leads me to believe: The human attitudes are much more noticed in all segments of the discourse, not only in business but also in all aspects of daily life.

Leave a comment

Not a robot?