Is this a thought piece or just me on my soapbox? Let’s find out.

Seriously, I get it. It’s terrifying being a manager right now – all this responsibility for yourself, your whole team, the results, keeping people alive. It’s enough to fry anyone’s brain.

You are being expected to manage your people and deliver results. But now you can’t see what they are up to all day. And the kind of stress we are experiencing right now triggers us to go into command and control: we have to KNOW everything, we have to DECIDE everything. We want numbers and data so we have evidence.

But the best way to get mediocre or terrible performance from another human being? Show them that you don’t trust them.

Worker activity and productivity trackers.

This post is inspired by an article I recently read about the massive increase in sales in activity trackers. No, this isn’t that personal tracker that tells you you’ve only done 1109 steps today. I’m talking about tracker software that an employer puts on their employees’ computers to see what they are doing all day.

Spending on training and development has been frozen or cut, yet some companies choose to spend money on this? (quietly losing my mind…)

These activity trackers are great for one thing: destroying trust and performance.

What gets measured gets done.

This is very true. So if you are measuring mouse movements, time spent on the computer, etc that’s what you will get. Are they productive when they are moving their mouse around? Who knows?

A colleague shared with me that while they were talking with a friend on the phone, the friend said that they “had to stay near their computer all day so they could move the mouse every so often, otherwise it would get reported that they weren’t working”

What you will get is Presenteeism. People will show up to show that they showed up.
What’s the point of that?
Don’t you want them to show up to make an impact? To contribute to the team?

So while I really do understand the desire to have control, to make the unknowable known, to answer those questions: what do my people do all day? Are they working or slacking off? Please stop.

There is another way.

Help them.
Trust them. i.e. tell them “I trust you to manage your workload, and your priorities. Keep talking to me, I’m here to help”

Focus on the outcomes: What kinds of outcomes are people creating? i.e is everything that needs to get done, being done? are things working the way they need to?
give them the resources they need to do their jobs well. Don’t know what that is? Ask them.

If you think that your employees need to have their every second monitored, tracked, and evaluated, then who the hell have you hired? Why are you paying them any money at all?
Don’t you say that you want motivated self-starters who are results-oriented? Haven’t you hired people that you think have these qualities?
Of course you have. You’ve hired adults with skills and brains.

Treat them as such.

P.s. For the sake of balance, I want to share that there is a way that activity trackers are useful too. Collecting anonymous data can tell us about working habits. Maybe there’s enough evidence there to persuade us to get rid of the Monday to Friday, 9-5 mentality, and focus on creating the outcomes instead of measuring the input.
Humans are not machines. Their creativity and productivity will fluctuate. That’s normal. But what’s extraordinary is what people can achieve when we trust and support them.

This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Want to talk more? Get in touch.