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Lipstick on a Pig: Sacrificing the Truth for the Scorecard

It was another pleasant autumn morning Down Under. I was facilitating another cohort of Sales leaders sharpening their art of getting the best results of their sales teams, through the power of Coaching. In the course of discussions, we started talking about scorecards, ranking, benchmarking and the art of performance management.

This was the moment when someone threw me a surprise: “Tell me what metric you want to turn Green and I can get my team to turn it Green”. For a moment I was taken aback with his candour. I then thanked him for his honesty and then decided that this was a wonderful “coachable” moment. “Mike, a person is defined by 2 things – their personality and their character. Personality is what you want others to see; character is what you truly are. Character is the set of unchanging values that makes you respect yourself. Now, when you say that you massage the metrics, are you operating from the personality paradigm or the character paradigm?”

I could sense the inner conflict as Mike battled with this question. He understood that he needed to operate from the character paradigm, but them Mike was a human being after all. He had to point outwards to the system that was forcing him to showcase “Green” on the scorecard, come what may. In fact, he said “It is not just me, but everybody else. My manager does it, and their manager does it as well – this is how we do business in this company”

On my suggestion that he was a 360-degree leader, and that he has the choice to “play” or “not play” for these dysfunctions, he smiled kindly at me “Venkat, you need to learn to be pragmatic – you play the game that the management wants you to play”

Does this sound familiar? I am hoping you are not a leader who sends emails to your teams to “make-up your metrics” so that “our scorecard should be green this month, and every month going forward – I don’t care how you do it, just get it to show green”. This blunt art of “makeup management” does not take us very far.

In my mind, there are 3 reasons why organizations “dress up” their performance:

  1. Their leaders do not have the courage to confront the truth – they are happy to distort it
  2. Their leaders are not aware of the cascading impact of their dysfunctional behaviour to massage the metrics
  3. The organization breeds a culture of “false reality” – often taking a “head in the sand” approach to metrics and scorecards

The resulting impact is an “incestual” inward-looking culture that completely misses opportunities in the market and a self-fulfilling prophecy of lacklustre growth – surely a path to ruin in the medium term. I decided to write this article since I see possibility at the grass roots level, for 3600 leaders to “grow a backbone” to convey nothing but the truth. While adhering to the truth, Individual Contributors also need to raise their expectations of their managers to coach them on the “how” of attainment of their metrics, rather than blindly move the metrics to match the mood of the organization.

Venkataraman Subramanyan is a Global Leadership Development Expert & Sales Coach. He is the Founder and CEO of Tripura Multinational. Venkat’s mission is to touch and transform a hundred million lives by 2025, and a billion lives by 2030. With over 30 years of experience, Venkat is passionate about 2 things – Leadership Transformation and Sales Acceleration. His trademarked deal qualification framework is licensed worldwide by organizations and filters over $3Billion in deals annually. He is an accredited member of the Forbes Coaches Council.

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