Why is “soft stuff” so hard really, at least to assess ?

assessing visible and less obvious resultsAs year-end approaches, we are all in the process of evaluating how well we did this year, and we are (or at least, some of us are) also thinking about objectives and goals for the coming 12 months.

As part of your self appraisal, you surely find it natural to evaluate your performance based on your outputs. After all, this is the visible, obvious side of what you produced. You can “see” it, therefore you can measure it – and so you can easily argue and evaluate the value of this effort.

But in many cases, you will also find natural to evaluate yourself based on less obvious criteria. For example, the savings your company achieved because you were able to implement a special tax approach for one of your senior executives who went on international assignment. Or the positive impact on morale in the Learning & Development department when you stepped up and helped manage the team when their leader was out on sick leave for 3 months.

Process or effort matters sometimes, not just outputs. Behaviours matter, not just results. Sometimes what you avoid is more important than what you deliver (think risk, spending, reputation damage…). But how do you rate and evaluate these, let alone come to an agreement about their worth when the time comes to meet with your own manager to assess your performance ?

Think about it as you are about to evaluate your own team, and more importantly, consider and agree goals for 2013 with them. We all know the saying “what gets measured, gets managed”.

Make sure you measure the right stuff, and that you don’t shy away from discussing the less obvious things. Or, as Seth Godin recently wrote :

The hard stuff is measurable, quantifiable and easy to put into a spreadsheet. This concrete stuff gives you an easy way to demand a bonus or track progress.

The soft stuff is merely essential, the real reason you do what you do.

Ironically, then, hard is easy and soft is difficult.

The question, I guess, is whether or not you and your team spend most of your time on the hard stuff, merely because it’s easier to measure, to argue about and to hide behind?

Thoughts ?


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