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And the Blind CEO Shall See…Why We Recommend Trying Virtual Blinders for Better Business Decisions

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By Kim Shepherd, CEO
With Tom Brennan, Master Writer

That Account Exec at the water cooler dresses sharp and has a snappy haircut. She must be hitting her goals, right? Well, if a key performance indicator is “looking good,” she’s acing it. But our eyes can fool us.

As CEO, you may poke your head out of your office door to see cubicles full of people feverishly busy. But busy work and hard work aren’t the same thing. In fact, you really can’t see much of anything as you survey your team — at least nothing of real value.

If you look out and the room is quiet and the energy low, does that mean everyone is playing Word with Friends™? Not necessarily. Your team may be in the zone, focusing diligently on goals. We tend to associate high energy and activity with productivity, but you don’t want to base next month’s forecasts on what you see from your office door. In fact, to get some clear insight on performance, you may need to put on blinders.

When Decision Toolbox went 100% virtual in the early 2000s, the entire leadership team suddenly had blinders on. You know what? It was one of the best things that ever happened to the company. We had to come up with ways to monitor performance. In a virtual model you need to monitor performance even more closely than in a sticks-and-brick office.

Most companies track metrics and some are highly metrics-driven. Even if that describes your company, put blinders on for a day. It will help you find out what you don’t know. For example, you may have a best-in-class, real-time financial dashboard. But that doesn’t tell you exactly what your biz dev team is doing today, or how things are flowing in operations.

You don’t have to track every single activity. In fact, if a metric doesn’t add some sort of value, don’t invest time and energy tracking it. The blinder exercise can help you determine what’s important.

By the way, I’m not saying you shouldn’t take advantage of intuition, gut feelings, emotional intelligence, or other non-metric insights. Trust them, and then triangulate with the metrics.

You may be basing decisions on assumptions instead of data, without even realizing it. Put those blinders on . . . and see.


Adapted from Kim’s newest book Get Scrappy, a business book that provides a new perspective on personal and corporate growth.  Connect with Kim on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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