Perhaps the most important thing a leader can do is to change the unit(s) by which things are measured – they have to shake up the scorecard and start to measure things differently.
In the 2011 movie, “Moneyball”, which is based on a true story, Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, one day has an epiphany: baseball’s conventional wisdom is all wrong. Faced with a tight budget, Beane must reinvent his team by outsmarting the richer ball clubs (much like entrepreneurs have to do against big business). Joining forces with Ivy League graduate Peter Brand, Beane prepares to challenge old-school traditions. He recruits bargain-bin players whom the scouts have labeled as “flawed”, but have game-winning potential. He changes the way they look at players, and he changes the approach in measuring their worth. He instead finds other statistics or attributes about players that others are ignoring, but have proven to be statistically important to winning games. He changes the unit of measurement, and, as a result, has much success in doing so. Beane changed the entire industry and the way players are evaluated. He had the courage to step up and change the unit of measurement. It’s a great success story.
Why are we so stuck in our ways? Why do we measure things a certain way and have such a hard time making paradigm shifts in the way we approach things? I believe that we really are all enslaved by our ideas – our perceptions – what we have seen and what we have been taught. The concepts of success, failure, or how things are measured in life drive us and shape our thinking patterns.
I am a businessman. I am a numbers guy. I am financial. I am logical. When I see a work of art that others are “appreciating”, I think, “I wonder how much this would sell for.” Or, “I wonder what this would appraise for and generate in a tax deduction.” I can’t help it. That’s my personal thought pattern and how I naturally measure the worth of the art — by its dollar value. Now, how many people would be nauseated by that? Quite a few, I suspect. Is that the way we should measure art as a society as a whole? I doubt it.
How then are people measured? Reality Check. It’s by money — by net worth. Sorry, but it’s true. That’s the scorecard. Is this a good thing to measure? Of course not. But, we do it anyway. And, most people don’t believe that the size of someone’s bank account is the ultimate measure of a person’s life’s worth. So then, why do we measure people this way?
How about the way someone looks? Beauty, for sure. Look in the magazine section of any grocery store. Beautiful women are glamorized. On the flipside, wealthy males are glamorized. Wealthy and beautiful women are REALLY glamorized! Not to be depressing, but what a sad scorecard. So empty. And, we show our children that this is the way we will be measuring their worth. It’s a shame, really. No wonder so many people are popping pills to feel better. “The Sexiest Man Alive” and “The Richest 50 People in the World” are two magazine covers I recently had the pleasure of passing by the last time I went to the grocery store. The rest of them are beautiful women dressed in provocative clothing. This is the thinking pattern we saturate ourselves with.
What about the person at the grocery store that makes minimum wage who bought Christmas presents for her favorite customers (this happens – because one of them gave my son a gift)? How is that person measured? Why don’t we celebrate this person? Why can’t we change the unit of measurement to identify people that should be admired and emulated? Shouldn’t we? And, wouldn’t it take a great leader to lead that movement? I would argue yes.
In 2017, Credo was honored to be on the Inc. 5000 list, as number 650. This is largely due to financial metrics that you have to send in, in accordance with your tax returns and other financial reports. Now, I have nothing against the Inc. 5000 list. There are a lot of great companies on that list, and the Inc. 5000 does a good job of helping support them. Interestingly enough, I realized that there were no financial metrics that reflected any of our goals. None of our mission can be measured by the financial metrics that Inc. 5000 uses. The metrics used by Inc. 5000 are totally inconsistent with the goals of our organization. However, in the business community, profits, sales growth, rate of sales growth, etc. are all the gold standard of how to measure a successful business. It’s beyond the scope of this writing, but I would argue that a business that uses that as its sole measurement is in line for a lot of trouble, except for the outliers/exceptions. Those measurements are not signs of health, and they are not a way to measure solid long-term strategic thinking, strong leadership that will withstand the test of time, and how effectively the company is executing on its mission.
In fact, figuring out how to measure performance, or how to define a scorecard, has been the most challenging dilemma I have ever dealt with in my business career. I find that most leaders default to popular measurement sticks or are just flat out lazy in doing it. The fact is, it requires a lot of deliberate and deep thought into the real measurements that will allow you to identify causation instead of correlation. From Levitt & Dubner’s famous book “Freakonomics”:
“A regression analysis can demonstrate correlation, but it doesn’t prove cause. After all, there are several ways in which two variables can be correlated. X can cause Y; Y can cause X; or it may be that some other factor is causing both X and Y. A regression alone can’t tell you whether it snows because it’s cold, whether it’s cold because it snows, or if the two just happen to go together.”
There is no question that Jesus changed the way we keep score – and that is itself a gross understatement! You would repetitively find him stating, “It has been written, but I say…..” He changed the game. He changed how we view holiness, how we can get into God’s presence, of how we measure our own growth and the worth of the human race overall. For instance, it’s not about how many prayers you make, it’s about how deep each prayer is and where your heart is. It’s not about how good you look, it’s about how you treat the animals and flowers that God created.
Let’s face it. We love to use money and physical appearance as primary units of measurement. This seems a surefire way to have a society and a culture that has misguided principles (is it any wonder we are the wealthiest but nowhere near the happiest culture?).
I am a capitalist, and I believe in that system as by far the best one we have yet to discover. But, we spend far too much time celebrating money instead of celebrating other things. People that have real impact are quickly brushed under the rug so that people that are wealthy can have the stage. People that are wealthy that donate most of their money? That’s different. But, for some reason, even those people aren’t celebrated all that much unless they are making large political campaign contributions as well. Trust me, I see it all the time in preparing tax returns. Very little celebration goes to the true “heroes” in our culture.
Jesus taught us that money was not bad – quite the opposite. Money is necessary and promotes productivity. Jesus taught us that God calls us to be as productive as we can be. There’s nothing wrong with practices that are helpful to us and bring us economic progress. However, the love of money is the root of all evil.
It’s time for all of us to change the way we measure success and/or a “productive” life. It’s time for us to measure progress in some other way than “annual GDP growth”. Most importantly, it’s time we changed how we measure ourselves. We are killing each other by using the wrong units of measurement. Our scorecards are messed up, to put it in simple terms.
Only the most insightful people have resisted the temptation to use popular units of measurement, and found solace in doing so (using their own measurement sticks). To those people, I would tell them to start speaking up and sharing. Be courageous and tell people how you measure your own success and your own self-worth. Let people know that they are not alone, and that the way the majority measures things is not the right way.
Jesus came to the Earth and turned the units of measurement upside down. This is why he was so hated by the priests of the day. He was completely destroying their system and their scorecards, which they held as part of their own identity. To this day, there are still many Christians and non-Christians that measure their spiritual life by good deeds and “time” in prayer/church. Jesus blew all that up. He changed the way we measure things, and great leaders that want to accomplish an ambitious mission do the same for any organization they lead. Great leaders know how to play “Moneyball”.